14 Mar 2018

Retirement home protests bus stop removal

From Checkpoint, 6:22 pm on 14 March 2018

Residents of a Christchurch retirement village are outraged their bus stop, which is right outside the complex gates, is facing the chop.

The Orbiter bus currently stops every 15 minutes on Philpotts road outside the Diana Isaac Retirement village, but changes to the nearby QE2 Drive meant it would soon no longer be able to turn onto the road.

That had prompted the village's elderly residents to mobilise, today marching on the Canterbury Regional Council buildings armed with a 600-signature petition, saying that the bus was a lifeline and cannot be lost.

89-year-old Lenore Lawn and 91-year-old Graham Lawn have lived in Diana Isaac Retirement Village for almost five years.

Driving was no longer an option for them, and the bus stop outside the village, only a short walk away from their unit, was the only way they could get into town.

Mrs Lawn said she could not believe it when she heard it might be axed.

"Unbelievable, such a crazy thing to do," she said. "The majority of us use the bus, it gets us to the shopping mall, town, everywhere."

The bus stop's demise was almost eight years in the making, with plans made in 2011 to change parts of QE2 Drive as part of the NZTA's $240 million Northern Corridor roading upgrade.

A central median would make it impossible to make a right turn in and out of Philpotts Road - where the retirement village was located.

That central median was expected to be in place by the end of 2018.

Graham Lawn said the bus was a lifeline for residents who could not drive anymore.

"It gets us out of the village, without the bus we would be pretty much house-bound because we would have to rely on taxis that are expensive," he said.

"The bus is just so convenient and enjoyable."

Graham and Lenore Lawn say the bus is their only way of getting into town

Graham and Lenore Lawn say the bus is their only way of getting into town Photo: RNZ / Logan Church

Graham Tate, another village resident, said there were other options the regional council should consider.

"It takes three minutes to go from where the Orbiter turns off now, down to the roundabout ... and back up to Philpotts Road," he said.

"[The council] says three minutes is too long to add on to a bus service - I say that is nonsense."

Canterbury Regional Council chair Steve Lowndes said the Orbiter route could be extended, but it would be costly.

"To put this decision in context, one of the possible options was to add an extra 3km to the Orbiter circuit to take the bus to the next roundabout and back... It would delay passengers and add, on current calculations, around $350,000 per year to the cost of running the route," he said.

Nevertheless, Mr Lowndes said the council would look into how the village can be serviced by the public transport network.

"While this road change isn't in our hands, ensuring a sustainable public transport network for the community is, and we want to be able to provide the best service we can within the constraints that we have," he said.

The council and Ryman Healthcare staff, who operate the retirement village, will be meeting soon to discuss the issue.

A Ryman Healthcare spokesperson said its chief executive, Gordon MacLeod, had also written to the region council to protest the route changes.

"The size of the turnout at today's protest shows the strength of their concern, and we were pleased [the council] has promised to look at alternatives," they said.

Diana Isaac Retirement Village residents protest outside the Canterbury regional council offices

Diana Isaac Retirement Village residents protest outside the Canterbury regional council offices Photo: RNZ / Alex Harmer