City power brokers stall over hospital car parking crisis

Three power brokers hold the key to easing the pain of thousands of people who struggle daily to get a car park close to Christchurch Hospital.

But incredibly, the new Minister supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration and MP for Christchurch Central Nicky Wagner, Canterbury District Health Board acting chief executive Mary Gordon and Mayor Lianne Dalziel are not talking to each other about the Hagley Park Hospital Corner solution.

In the past two weeks The Star has been asking people if Hospital Corner should be used as a temporary car park.

The feedback has been a resounding: YES. People have had enough of the hospital parking debacle. A poll on our website showed 63.1 per cent of respondents want a car park there, as long as it was temporary. Those against the idea were 36.9 per cent.

But The Star can reveal Mrs Wagner, Ms Gordon and Ms Dalziel haven’t even spoken to each other about the possible temporary solution.

In last week’s The Star Mrs Wagner said considering Hospital Corner was “logical.” Neither Ms Gordon or Ms Dalziel will give a personal view.

But asked yesterday why she had not raised it with the city council or hospital board Mrs Wagner said: “It’s not part of my responsibility to solve parking problems around the hospital. I know each of them (CDHB, city council, Otakaro Ltd) have their positions and I’m not going to try and change their minds.”

Christchurch Hospital is in Mrs Wagner’s electorate.

“As the local MP, I’m concerned about access to the hospital for patients, visitors and staff. I’m keen to look at every available option, and temporary use of Hagley Park, if well managed, may be part of the solution.”

Money lies at the root of why the CDHB and city council are turning a blind eye to Hospital Corner.

Said Ms Gordon: “At this point investing money in a short-term temporary solution on Hagley Park is not an option we are actively considering.”

She said the CDHB is aware of the public sentiment around the lack of parking close to the hospital.

“We are in discussions [with private land owners and developers] regarding alternative parking.

“The investment of public funds in preparing the ground, installing lighting and security, then remediating the ground afterwards costs hundreds of thousands – as we learnt after the quakes when we were granted permission to use part of Hagley Park for temporary staff car parking.

“We would rather health dollars are spent on health services while we negotiate longer term parking solutions that will provide better value for money.”

But she said announcements on solutions were months away.

The Star again asked Ms Dalziel this week why she would not offer an opinion on whether Hospital Corner was a good or bad solution.

She replied: “I am not silent on the issue. It isn’t an issue when we haven’t even been approached by the CDHB.Of course we would consider it should we be asked to.

“If that were the case, staff would prepare a report setting out the options, along with the risks and opportunities.

“There are many people who use Hagley Park for sport and recreation and, of course, the emergency helicopter uses it too. We would need to consider the impact on all of these and ensure the trees were protected as well. This is the main reason the council stopped parking on North Hagley Park. I understood the CDHB was working on a number of options, including shuttle services to car park buildings. It is not possible to have a considered view on something that hasn’t been researched.”

In a later email, Ms Dalziel repeated the CDHB’s view on the cost.

Editor-in-chief Barry Clarke

From the editor’s desk

A battling day in the trade yesterday, arm wrestling with three of the city’s most powerful figures over that very contentious issue: Hospital car parking and Hagley Park.

Three weeks ago The Star suggested using Hospital Corner as a temporary car park to relieve a chronic situation.

Not suprisingly most people (the publc) we have spoken to think it’s a great idea – as long as it’s temporary.

But as we report on page 1 today, Nicky Wagner, Lianne Dalziel and Mary Gordon, the three people who could make something happen aren’t even to each other about it.

Dalziel, and Gordon, won’t even give a personal opinion. Last week Wagner told us Hospital Corner was “logical” but yesterday she conceded she hasn’t and won’t talk to Dalziel or Gordon.

Out of touch? I’ll leave that to you.

– Barry Clarke