Flooding woes in Christchurch.
It was anything but a good Friday in Christchurch, as 65mm of rainfall deluged the city, partially closing the award-winning Fitzgerald Ave bridge, once again. After the March storm, I dredged a very belated concession out of council that the bridge design was badly botched, and that mitigation work is being considered. Flood mitigation was top of mind on Friday morning, when I wandered down from Huntsbury to the banks of the Heathcote, to offer any beleaguered residents a hand. In conversation with a dozen riverside residents, they were profoundly dismayed at the dearth of information. In Palatine Terrace, Tom told me how he rang the council last week to see what was proposed to mitigate the flood-risk. “We’re thinking about it”, was all he could extract. Anne in Riverlaw Terrace, told me how prior to the quakes, the last big flood in her street was in 2001, yet the footpath wasn’t submerged. The footpath and her property has been repeatedly submerged in the past 18 months. Why haven’t the riverbanks, which narrowed in the quakes, been widened and the river de-silted? Will they be? Phil in Eastern Terrace, wants to know why the bunged up estuary hasn’t been dredged, or whether tidal gates should be erected across the spit. And how about uprooting the native grasses, flaxes and culturally-correct clutter that has only served to create river choke-points? Mayor Lianne Dalziel, who admirably spent all of Friday inspecting the worst affected suburbs, has escalated the prospect of some Flockton cluster homes being red-zoned or compulsorily acquired. Dalziel has also ordered fresh flood-mitigation reports from officials, with a decision-making timetable unveiled on Thursday. The Earthquake Recovery Minister has sensibly stepped back and allowed the council to play the lead role on flood-mitigation. But as the riverside residents have highlighted, clear answers to their questions are warranted, as part of a much improved and reassuring information flow.
Just as Easter symbolises renewal and new hope, Bishop Victoria and the Church Property Trust should embrace that spirit, in a bid to heal the deep civic schism over the fate of Christ Church Cathedral. The Research First poll is further evidence that the majority of residents support retaining the look of the traditional cathedral. The “upturned dinghy” contemporary concept has been sunk in the court of public opinion. The Anglican Church should have the good grace to take the hint and ditch it, when they return to court on Monday. Whether the cathedral is restored or rebuilt, the Church Property Trust should give Christchurch what it wants – a cathedral we recognise.
Mike Yardley’s current affairs column in The Press. First published on April 22.