27 Dec 2022

Christchurch Hospital staff secure parking woes continue with plans not completed

7:54 am on 27 December 2022
Exteriors of Chch Hospital during covi-19 level 4 lock down

Christchurch Hospital staff have to go into a ballot to get a spot in the secure parking building, a nurse says. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

A Christchurch nurse wants a long-term solution for hospital staff carparks to be prioritised after a run-in with construction workers.

The Christchurch Hospital nurse, who RNZ has agreed not to name, said the incident unfolded after she parked on Stewart Street, close to the hospital, about 6.30am in late November.

As she left her car, workers at a nearby building site told her she was not able to use the on street park, she said.

"There was no signage, no cones, nothing. When I asked why, he couldn't give me a direct answer. Instead, he called his boss over and was verbally abusive," she said.

Both men then became angry and swore at her, she said.

"It was on the street, I was not blocking any driveways, I was not physically on the worksite."

When she returned from her shift later that day, her car was fenced in, completely surrounded by cones and interlocking fencing.

A Christchurch Hospital nurse says she had to park near a construction site, and had a run-in with the workers, due to the lack of spaces available for staff on-site.

A Christchurch Hospital nurse says she had to park near a construction site, and had a run-in with the workers, due to the lack of spaces available for staff on-site. Photo: Supplied

The nurse said the workers watched, laughed and yelled at her while she removed it, refusing to help her.

"The hospital's stretched, I'm tired, I'm a new nurse, I'd finished my shift later than I was supposed to and just wanted to go home."

The townhouse construction site belonged to property developers Williams Corporation.

General manager Kathryn Marshall said she had heard of the incident but was not on site that day.

But she believed the staff involved were from a sub-contracted company, not Williams Corporation staff.

"As for how it went, I don't know who said what and how. But I don't condone if anyone fires back to someone else or speaks inappropriately," she said.

Marshall said she had heard that the nurse parked in the site's no parking area, which she believed would have involved moving barriers.

"During the day, when the construction teams came through ... they tried to access the site with heavy materials and it was made very, very difficult because of this person parked in the no parking area," she said.

Words were then exchanged by both parties when the parked person returned, Marshall said.

"Construction sites, traffic management plans and cordoned off areas are there for everyone's safety. And they're also there so the work can be undertaken in a compliant matter.

"The whole situation is really unfortunate, from every angle really."

Hospital parking

There's talk of adding additional levels to the parking building

More than two years on, the addition of 238 parks to the existing staff carpark was yet to be completed. (file picture) Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Both Marshall and the nurse agreed the situation could have been avoided if there was better hospital parking.

The nurse said the hospital's secure staff parking building only catered for a small number of staff.

"You have to go in a ballot and a waiting list to be selected for this carpark," she said.

In a 2018 Official Information Act response, Te Whatu Ora Waitaha (then Canterbury District Health Board) said there were more than 200 staff on the waiting list for its 24/7 secure parking building.

This left the remaining staff to park on the street, use alternative transport, or the hospital's park and ride service.

The park and ride service was more than 2km away from the hospital and could be accessed via a timetabled shuttle service between 6.15am and 8.30pm or a 20-minute walk through Hagley Park.

But those times did not always align with shifts, the nurse said.

"It's never ideal to be walking 30 minutes to your car at 11pm at night or 30 minutes to work at 6.30am," she said.

Christchurch City Mayor Phil Mauger has long campaigned for better hospital carparking, first as a councillor, then as mayor.

"It's definitely not good enough. The words 'bloody shambles' just about pop out my mouth," he said.

During his mayoral election campaign this year, he and fellow councillor Aaron Keown promised to get extra parking across the road from the hospital by Christmas.

But Mauger said his original idea to create parks on the Hagley Park berm outside the hospital would not be going ahead.

"There's a government decree or law that you're not allowed to park on Hagley Park unless there's a special dispensation and, sadly, the park itself comes right to the edge of the road, to the gutter."

The new plan was to reduce St Asaph Street to one lane near the hospital.

"The work is happening already, [council] transport staff are working on it ... I'm over-simplifying but all it really needs is paint on the road to shut it down from two lanes to one and put car parking lines there for cars to park," Mauger said.

Mauger said the plan would need some refining and believed the decision would have to be made by the local community board, not the council.

It would also be public parking, not exclusive to hospital staff.

In 2020, Minister Megan Woods announced a $14 million Christchurch Hospital parking investment as part of an earthquake redevelopment, with both projects expected to be completed within 24 months.

But more than two years on, the addition of 238 parks to the existing staff carpark was yet to be completed.

Te Whatu Ora Waitaha infrastructure executive director Rob Ojala said construction on the addition was still yet to begin.

"The extension to the Antigua Street carpark is in the detailed design phase but we are currently evaluating the project due to construction cost escalations," Ojala said.

"Our team is looking at other staff carparking options to extend the current staff carparking capacity into the future."

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