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The Press – News column May 14

Back the Buses.

The biggest shake-up to our metro bus service in twenty years, came into force six months ago. As I flagged back in November, the city council would be caught with its pants down, for failing to invest in suburban interchange facilities. Enter Dame Margaret Bazley, the Swiss Army knife of the public sector, who can strip a wall at twenty paces. The Environment Canterbury boss has lobbed a rocket at the city council, accusing them of “no longer being  ommitted to a viable future for public transport in Christchurch.” Cr. Claudia Reid has hit back, claiming the new metro bus route network is unproven and the council has opted to channel its funds into cycling facilities. This is a woefully unsatisfactory reposte. Since when did the provision of transport funding become an either or? Christchurch requires an integrated transport system that provides first-class facilities for all users . These are not follies or fripperies, but pretty basic building blocks to world-class city living. Six months ago, more than 20 bus routes trundled through the city centre, clogging the streets with a convoy of empty buses. Now, just a handful of core routes travel across Christchurch through the central city, with most routes hop-scotching through the suburbs and hubbing at shopping malls. ECan had the fortitude to face reality and adapt the metro service to match the marked shift in consumer patterns. ECan is responsible for routes and services.  The city council is responsible for roadside bus facilities. Yet, as opposed to stumping up the cash for weather-proof interchange facilities, as they promised to do some years ago, the council’s negligence sees thousands of bus users left out in the cold, enduring the full force of winter’s claws as they wait for their connection, outside the likes of Northlands Mall. The lingering suspicion is that the city council dropped the ball on suburban facilities, to rainbow-chase the fantasy of replacing buses with light rail across Christchurch. The pursuit of that folly must stop.

Moral Panic.

As a St. Martins resident, the proposal by Foodstuffs to complement their sparkly supermarket with a Henry’s bottle store strikes me as empire-building. Is Foodstuffs still a grocer, or is it morphing into a booze baron?  There’s at least half a dozen takeaway booze outlets, south of Brougham St, so I hardly feel starved of choice.  However, I can’t concur with the blind panic and paroxysms of hysteria gripping some opponents. Even the St. Martins School principal  has gravely warned that ”impressionable  children would be exposed to the store, getting to and from school.” Excuse me?  It’s not an al fresco brothel. Just what is the danger of such exposure, compared to trawling the supermarket booze aisles, when they’re shopping with Mummy?

( Mike’s weekly local current affairs column, every Tuesday in The Press.)7031646

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