16 Jan 2015

Questions raised over new Lyttelton precinct

1:26 pm on 16 January 2015

There are fears amongst some businesses in the port town of Lyttelton that a new entertainment and retail precinct on the waterfront could take away much needed customers from the town's existing bars and restaurants.

An artist's impression of the Dampier Bay development.

An artist's impression of the Dampier Bay development. Photo: Supplied

The Lyttelton Port Company project was part of a proposed $1 billion redevelopment which included moving most of the port's container operations away from the town and bringing people back to the waterfront.

The development would also open the gates to part of the port known as Dampier Bay.

Business owners in the old part of the town on London Street, one kilometre away from Dampier Bay have questioned aspects of the development.

Co-owner of Coffee Culture cafe Emily Sultan, said there was a risk it could take much needed business away from the heart of the town at a time when it was still rebuilding following the earthquakes.

"You could imagine people could come straight through the tunnel into Dampier Bay and forget about the centre of the town.

"I mean it's a great idea, the concept is awesome, especially if there's galleries and things like that down there.

"As long as there's good submissions from the public. I do just wonder what we'll end up with. We don't want an Auckland Viaduct down there, that's for sure."

Owner of the recently-rebuilt Lyttelton Coffee Company Stephen Mateer said the development would be bounded by an industrial area that was exposed to the easterly wind.

"Setting up business is pretty serious. Do you want to take that risk to be down there in that wind in quite a shady part of the port?

"If somebody said 'would you like to swap places, would you rather be on London Street or down there', I'd trade up here."

An artist's impression of Simeon Quay.

An artist's impression of Simeon Quay. Photo: Supplied

At the moment anybody wanting to explore Lyttelton's waterfront was confronted by a two metre security fence topped with razor wire.

Lyttelton Residents Association spokesperson Ken Maynard said the port company was to be congratulated for wanting to open the gates to Dampier Bay.

But he questioned how accessible it was.

"To get there you have this torturous route around the edge of the dry dock and even then you have to negotiate plenty of razor wire before you can actually get there.

"So you're not talking about a comfortable walk."

Mr Maynard wanted to see the port give up more of the waterfront to the people, including the area immediately in front of the town.

"For example, you could provide an overbridge, a pedestrian one, and although the wharves are derelict, I can't believe it would be too expensive to maintain them to the level where pedestrian traffic could use them."

He said under the current plan this part of the port would not be opened up for another 30 years, after the port company completed its move away from the town.

"I think something could be done but there is basically no real willingness. The port company wants to make Dampier Bay the place, they want to move east eventually, but it's going to take a very long time to reclaim the land so that it's sufficiently solid to be able to put containers on it.

"A lot of people would quite like to see something in the interim before we're all dead."

The redevelopment of Dampier Bay was one of a number of projects the Government wanted to see happen as part of earthquake recovery in the region and would therefore require final sign-off from the Earthquake Recovery Minister, Gerry Brownlee.

Christchurch City Council, which had just spent $3 million building a town square on London Street, also wanted a say on what the waterfront project would end up looking like.

Ward councillor for Lyttelton and co-owner of a dairy on London Street Andrew Turner said planners need to ensure Dampier Bay did not disadvantage businesses on the street.

"If we saw thousands of square metres of retail space or office space down there, that's when we might start to say, well this is actually going to be stopping the recovery of the Lyttelton town centre because it's taking away that which perhaps might naturally have come into the Lyttelton town centre."

As-well-as developing the waterfront, the port's recovery plan calls for the return of the cruise ships - although building a cruise ship terminal was not something the port was willing to do.

The vessels, and the thousands of tourists who travel on them, have been calling at Akaroa ever since the earthquakes made it impossible for them to berth at Lyttelton.

Mr Turner said the council might look at helping to get a terminal off the ground itself, and had commissioned a study into the benefits that could flow to the Canterbury economy through bringing the boats back.

"There's a conversation already started around what kind of partnerships might be required.

"Clearly the cruise ship operators have an interest, as does the city.

"So, if it doesn't work for the port, then we need to be looking at how others who would also benefit, can help make it work for the port."

Lyttelton Port chief executive Peter Davie it was too soon to say how much retail and hospitality space will be made available at Dampier Bay.

"We're out at the moment, talking with some of the property developers. We've just started talking with them and saying, what do you think would be of interest in an area like this.

"All we've said is we've got this much land area. Some of it will be public space and some will be retail and we really haven't put the footprint down yet."

Lyttelton Harbour

Lyttelton Harbour Photo: AFP

Mr Davie said a new footpath would be built to get people from the main part of the town to Dampier Bay.

He said opening up the part of the port immediately in front of the town was still a long way off.

"At this stage it's a minimum of ten years because we still use those wharves for cargo. One of the pieces of feedback we got as part of our consultation is people actually want to see ships still coming in to the inner harbour. They enjoy the view of them working and doing things."

The public would get its say on the Lyttelton Port Recovery Plan from April next year.

A final decision would be made by the Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee in August.

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