Residents not convinced Lyttelton will be ready for SailGP

The SailGP event will take place at Lyttelton Harbour on January 29 and 30. Photo: Mark Lloyd...
The SailGP event will take place at Lyttelton Harbour on January 29 and 30. Photo: Mark Lloyd/Getty Images
Improvements are being made to the Lyttelton and Naval Point areas ahead of the SailGP series to be held in the harbour in January.

Christchurch City Council is assessing what work can be carried out on the roads and pedestrian accessways it owns and manages to and from the site, as well as parking areas near the boat ramp.

The work is likely to include a general tidy up to the road surface and shoulders on Godley Quay to improve vehicle and pedestrian access from Te Ana Marina to Naval Point.

The toilets next to the Lyttelton Information Centre on Oxford St are also being upgraded.

Design work is under way to reconfigure the inside of the toilet facilities, with work planned to start in October. The project will see the toilets become unisex and baby changing facilities will be included, said city council head of parks Andrew Rutledge.

These projects are in addition to the almost $4 million the council is spending on fast-tracking part of the parking area phase of the Naval Point Development Plan, adopted in November 2020, to make sure the site is ready for racing.

An ageing water main has already been replaced, while utilities are being upgraded and foreshore improvements made. All work is being funded through existing budgets, said Rutledge.

Temporary infrastructure – such as toilets, grandstands, staging and marquees – required to host the event are being provided by SailGP, as the event organiser.

Some residents have raised concerns in the past about cars being driven unsafely at Naval Point and the council wants to discourage this type of behaviour once part of the parking area is sealed.

Rutledge said a number of cameras have been installed onsite at Naval Point to help minimise vandalism and unsafe vehicle use.

“Signage has gone up to let people know there are cameras monitoring activity. We also encourage residents to contact the police if they see unsafe behaviour.”

SailGP will be a ticketed event, with a comprehensive traffic management plan being worked on, which would detail how residents, workers and spectators will be able to access Lyttelton, Naval Point and the wider harbour communities.

Emergency vehicle access to Lyttelton will be maintained at all times and safety evacuation procedures are being developed as part of the event and the plan.

The impacts of the traffic management plan will be shared with the community in the months leading up to the event, so there is plenty of time to plan access to and from the area over the racing period.

Chris Brown. Photo: Samantha Mythen
Chris Brown. Photo: Samantha Mythen
The work comes as residents say they are not convinced Lyttelton will be up to the standard the international spotlight demands.

“My key worry is the look of Lyttelton when people arrive. The hideous Mitre on the waterfront, the empty spaces and run-down signs,” said Chris Brown.

Brown says the historic hotel is a disgrace. It has stood in its dangerous state of disrepair since being damaged in the earthquakes.

“I am not at all convinced the city council will have moved forward with its demolition in time for SailGP,” he said.

Residents are worried Lyttelton will not be ready for the SailGP next year, especially with The...
Residents are worried Lyttelton will not be ready for the SailGP next year, especially with The Mitre yet to be demolished. Photo: Samantha Mythen
Owners of The Mitre Hotel have applied for a resource consent for the building’s demolition and the city council said they are still waiting for information from the applicant.

The owners said the building will be demolished as soon as possible after the resource consent is issued.

Currently, company director and property manager Tony Ward said they arrange for any tagging to be painted over when spotted.

A new development will be built on the site when the venture becomes economically viable.  

The owners hope the building will be of similar footprint and size and incorporate some heritage elements characteristic of the present and former Mitre building. 

“This is sometime off, however, due to economic considerations with both Covid-19 and local growth and development,” Ward said.

Kirsty Macnab said she was glad The Mitre will be pulled down and Fay Jeffery agreed.

“It should have been pulled down years ago,” Jeffery said.

Photo: Samantha Mythen
Photo: Samantha Mythen
Jeffery said she almost ended up in a car crash due to the orange barriers around the hotel preventing a clear view of oncoming traffic when turning from Canterbury St onto Norwich Quay.

“It is so dangerous,” she said.

“If there was another earthquake, the place could easily fall down on people walking around it.”

Bryce Sabe, of Lyttelton, said he thought the port would not be ready for the big event unless certain things occurred, such as getting rid of all the rubbish.

Lyttelton Business Association chairwoman Vicki Tahau Paton’s biggest concern is the roading part of the Bridle Path track into Lyttelton.

“The road needs more than repair work, it is dangerous,” she said.

“No one is taking these concerns seriously enough but there will be lots of people walking over the hill for the event.”

Brown also has concerns about whether Lyttelton will be able to cope with the influx of guests, specifically the traffic management plans.

“I am not convinced the traffic plan will work,” he said.

Meanwhile, Macnab said she is planning to take a week off work as “driving in and out of Lyttelton will be a nightmare”.

Photo: Samantha Mythen
Photo: Samantha Mythen
A ChristchurchNZ spokesperson said SailGP is currently preparing a traffic management plan for the event, taking into account issues such as congestion, parking, safety, emergency access and access for residents.

The city council will then review this plan.

“We are working closely with other partner agencies to ensure lessons learnt from previous events in Lyttelton are incorporated into the plan to make sure the event can maintain a functioning transport network,” said a city council spokesperson.

The high-speed sailing event will take place on Lyttelton Harbour on January 29 and 30, 2022. It will be the penultimate grand prix of the season before the grand final in San Francisco in March.

The race involves teams in F50 catamarans racing against each other reaching speeds in excess of 50 knots or 90km/h.

“Although this event is great overall for the community, Christchurch and New Zealand, I am not sure if Lyttelton will be ready,” said Brown.

Jeffery agreed and said Lyttelton is the forgotten town.

“ChristchurchNZ are really promoting this for Christchurch city and the benefits it will bring for Christchurch,” said Brown.

“But the fact the event will be held in the beautiful harbour and in Lyttelton just seems incidental. As is always the case, Lyttelton is considered a suburb rather than its own place.”

However, a ChristchurchNZ spokesperson said the Lyttelton township, the harbour and Rāpaki will feature in aspects of SailGP’s marketing.

“SailGP will boost our reputation as a city with incredible outdoor assets, a passionate sporting and sailing community, and the infrastructure and capability to hold major international events,” they said.

Ross Morrison is also taking a more positive view.

“Of course we will be ready. Absolutely. We’ve got to stay positive,” he said.

He already has friends booked in to stay at his home during the event.

“This could be a once-in-a -lifetime thing,” he said.

Morrison hopes that before the event starts the Woolstore buildings at Te Ana Marina will be leased out to hospitality businesses. They are currently empty.

Charlotte McSweeney and Isobel Melhuish. Photo: Samantha Mythen
Charlotte McSweeney and Isobel Melhuish. Photo: Samantha Mythen
Charlotte McSweeney and Isobel Melhuish from Christchurch thought Lyttelton was “quite cute,” and the empty sites offered a place to “sit, chill out and have a picnic.”

Charlie Fawkner agreed: “Lyttelton has that cute charm about it.”

Lyttelton resident Eva Bennett also does not mind the empty sites.

“Lyttelton should not be glamorised anymore just for the international spotlight,” Bennett said.

Fawkner, however, did wonder about Lyttelton’s infrastructure.

“There’s not really any accommodation in Lyttelton other than the hotel at Governors Bay,” he said.

Charlie Fawkner. Photo: Samantha Mythen
Charlie Fawkner. Photo: Samantha Mythen
As a result he said, many Lyttelton residents are choosing to move out that weekend and rent out their homes via services such as Air BnB.

They are also marking up the prices.

“The economic situation that will result from the event will be fantastic,” Fawkner said.

A ChristchurchNZ spokesperson said the estimated visitor spend is $3 million.

“The influx of visitors watching the event is expected to generate significant revenue for hospitality businesses throughout the bays, while the worldwide exposure of the beauty and hospitality of the region is expected to raise its profile in positive ways,” they said.

However, they would not confirm the investment ChristchurchNZ has put into the event.

Little Ship Club president and Yachting New Zealand director Victoria Moore is part of a SailGP “legacy and leverage” group, discussing the impact of the event on the community with the city council and event organisers.

“A lot of work is going on behind the scenes to ensure the event runs smoothly, as well as disruptions to residents are minimised as much as possible, especially in terms of traffic management,” she said.

Moore said there have been discussions of including a bus ride in the event ticket price and there being other incentives offered so people choose not to drive to Lyttelton.

In terms of Lyttelton needing a “tidy up,” Moore said there is only so much that could be done in the limited amount of time they have, hence priorities such as work at the $4 million upgrade at Naval Point, which began at the end of June.

The upgrade includes replacing an ageing water main, upgrading utilities and making foreshore improvements, a city council spokesperson said.

Moore is positive the event is an incredible opportunity to showcase Christchurch to the world.

SailGP is expected to attract a televised audience of an estimated 250 million people.

Tahau Paton is also on the committee. She said the work being done is “awesome.”

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