Year-long flying fox saga divides Christchurch community
Warring neighbourhood groups, tens of thousands of ratepayer dollars and several acoustic engineering reports have failed to reach a compromise over a noisy flying fox that was in use for less than two months.
It looks set to be permanently removed from a suburban Christchurch playground, at a cost to ratepayers.
The year-long dispute has played out at the Prestons subdivision, in Marshland.
A 50-metre flying fox was put up in the subdivision's Muka Park in January last year by developers Ngai Tahu. The playground came under the control of the Christchurch City Council in June that year.
The flying fox was hugely popular with the surrounding community, but the way it squealed quickly got on the nerves of existing neighbours.
After two complaints in February last year – both confirmed by council staff as breaching noise limits – a new mechanism was trialled but proved to be even louder.
The cable and mechanism was pulled down by the council, which told residents in May last year it planned to re-landscape the playground and remove the flying fox.
The council received over a dozen phone calls and emails in opposition, and a 488-strong petition in support was presented to the Coastal-Burwood Community Board in June.
In search of compromise, the council studied a flying fox in Rolleston with a notably quiet pulley mechanism, which was installed and tested at Muka Park in June.
It was still too loud.
Reports from both the council and the complainants found the flying fox was just on the threshold of local noise limits: It met the daytime limit of 50 decibels, but fell short of the 40 decibel limit applicable after 10pm. The pulley has since been removed.
It meant the flying fox would need to be locked up at night if it remained, which would cost about $2000 to $3000 per year. Staff said if it was used at night, the council would be in breach of its district plan.
They have now recommended to the community board that the flying fox be permanently removed, at a cost of $20,000 plus GST. It could be placed in a later stage of Prestons subdivision, but that could take up to two years and there was a chance that stage would not be built.
The board will consider the recommendation next month.
Leianne O'brien, who has four children, wants the flying fox gone, which was really noisy, especially at night, she said.
Her bedroom was about 20m from it and, while it was operating, teenagers would "yahoo around on it" at 1.30am.
"I would probably have a different opinion if I didn't live right next door to it, so I can see where they [the supporters] are coming from too."
O'brien was the first to build on the street, living there for over a year before the flying fox went in. She knew there was going to be a reserve next door, but there was no mention of a flying fox.
Ian Reid, who organised the supporting petition, said he found "pretty overwhelming support" in the community.
"We fully agree that it needs to be compliant but I can't believe in this day and age we can't come up with a modern solution that is compliant."
Most of the system was replaced for the June trial by a company called the Playground Centre.
"It would have definitely met the daytime rate, and it would have hopefully been just inside the nighttime rate, but the nighttime rate is pretty quiet," sales consultant Simon Currie said.
The situation was frustrating as he wanted to see it running again, he said. He had more ideas about how he could make the system quieter.
Coastal ward councillor David East said a decision "definitely" needed to be made.
"I will be making that decision based on the information that is put before me at the next community board meeting, and weighing up the pros and cons of both sides of the argument."
He would not comment further before the meeting.