Livestream: Christchurch City Council

RACHEL YOUNG AND LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 11:09 12/12/2013

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Riccarton businesses are pleading with the city council to re-think its plans to create a bus interchange along busy Riccarton Rd.

Speaking on behalf of 32 Riccarton Rd business owners, Arthur McKee told councillors this morning that main street retailers were already struggling to compete against internet shopping and did not need the council making it harder by putting a bus interchange in their midst.

The removal of nine parking spaces and the installation of three bus stops and an interchange would ruin the shopping experience along Riccarton Rd and deter people, particularly the elderly and the disabled, from shopping there.

"The good shops will depart ... and it will be a downward spiral for the area,'' McKee said.

The area where it was proposed to site the bus stops and interchange was already a bottle-neck.

With buses moving in and out all the time it would become more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians and make it difficult for emergency vehicles to get through.

The business owners were not against the idea of a bus lounge but believed the council had chosen the wrong site.

"A bit more time and careful planning could deliver a favourable outcome for everyone.''

Diva clothing shop owner Elizabeth Alabaster said if the proposed interchange went ahead she would have to shift her business.

"It will become a transport corridor not an exciting destination itself,'' she warned.

More than 2800 people join or leave bus services on Riccarton Rd daily, making it the busiest bus corridor in the city.

As part of its new "hubs and spokes'' public transport system, Environment Canterbury (ECan) wants the council to build an off-street suburban bus interchange in busy Riccarton Rd.

A survey by Opinions Market Research Ltd of 400 people at Riccarton bus stops found 83 per cent supported the proposed passenger lounge location, and 87 per cent supported the inclusion of a cafe.

The interchange would have a passenger lounge capable of accommodating 65 waiting passengers, a cafe, free WiFi, toilets and up-to-the-minute bus information on airport-style screens.

ECan chairwoman Dame Margaret Bazley told councillors an average of 3000 people passed through Riccarton by bus daily.

"These people are the elderly, mothers with young children, school children, low-paid workers and the shopping public of Christchurch and people who are committed to reducing their carbon [footprint]," she said. "They need a safe quality facility and I believe they will respect it."

ECan commissioner Rex Williams said the current facilities were unsafe, had insufficient space and no safe pedestrian crossings.

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The proposed new interchange would create a safe and quality space for passengers.

He said it was important to approve the lease as soon as possible so the interchange would be operational before next winter as "we don't want another winter with people waiting out in the rain".

John Harrington, whose family has had a shop on Riccarton Rd for over 60 years, said the business community was united in its opposition to the proposed location of the interchange and believed it would destroy the commercial activity in the area.

"If you are adamant there has to be an exchange, put it in the [Westfield] Riccarton carpark,'' Harrington said.

Martin Taylor, from the Central Riccarton Residents' Association, said they agreed with ECan that an interchange was needed but believed the wrong location had been chosen.

"Other options have to be explored,'' Taylor said.

Go Bus operating director Nigel Piper said the company fully supported the proposal for the interchange. It was a major provider of transport along the Riccarton corridor and believed its passengers deserved the type of facility proposed.

Red Bus chief executive Paul McNoe also spoke in favour of the interchange, labelling the existing facilities as "second-rate''.

The council has decided to defer a decision on whether to proceed with the bus interchange until next week.

QUAKE REMEMBRANCE MARKERS CONSIDERED

Today's full council meeting will start with 14 deputions - nine of which relate to the proposed Riccarton Rd bus interchange.

The new council is also set to consider whether it should contribute $207,000 towards the running of the Residential Advisory Service that was set up earlier this year to help people locked in disputes with their insurer.

Other issues to be addressed at today's meeting include:

-Whether the council should try to recoup $224,000 from Canterbury Cricket for the costs it incurred during the Environment Court resource consent hearing into the development of Hagley Oval.

-Whether to allow families of those who lost loved ones in the quake to erect temporary remembrance markers on the sites where they died.

-How to proceed with plans to swap over the Lichfield/Tuam one-way.

The council can be watched on a livestream feed below.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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