Christchurch is a city in recovery. Since the devastating earthquakes in 2011, the city has rebuilt with spirit and innovation - one need only look at the shipping container mall, the cardboard cathedral, the interesting art projects and creative new restaurants to know that this place has not been beaten. There is still plenty for visitors to see and do in the genteel southern city city - punting on the Avon River, sipping craft beer, shopping, wandering the many public gardens and taking in the International Antarctic Centre, to name just a few.
Cruise lines have called in to Christchurch for many years, but since the earthquake the majority have used Akaroa as an alternative port. It's possible to transfer into the city from the small seaside town on Banks Peninsula, but much more of a hassle than the previous 20-minute journey from Christchurch's port at Lyttelton into the CBD.
New port plan to be available for public comment
New Zealand's Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister, Gerry Brownlee, will be inviting public comment on a draft recovery plan for the port area at Lyttelton from this weekend. Feedback is due by 5pm on Monday the 31st of August, and will be taken into account in the decision on how to proceed which is expected by the end of October.
Mr Brownlee commented, "The port is playing an essential role in the economic recovery of greater Christchurch and this recovery plan will provide certainty on how its repair and rebuild can be achieved."
"The draft Lyttelton Port Recovery Plan has been developed to provide for the repair, rebuild and reconfiguration of Lyttelton Port, while taking into account matters such as the impact on the local community and users of the port, and any implications for transport and potential effects on the coastal marine area."
This feedback period will not be the first for the preliminary plan - it has been developed in consultation not only with experts but with the public. This final round of official written comment will allow Mr Brownlee, the Environment Canterbury Regional Council and the Lyttelton Port Company to get last-minute input from those who have concerns or questions.
Future for cruise ships to Christchurch
The question on the mind of many cruise lovers: will the lines return to Christchurch? The draft port recovery plan does touch on a cruise ship berth, and although it does not hold any concrete promises, the outlook is good.
The plan states that to provide adequately for cruise ship visits, a new wharf and landside facility would be necessary, and that the Lyttelton Port Company has completed scoping work for this. Included in the plan are amendments to provide for the development of a berth near Cashin Quay in the Inner Harbour as a permitted activity, meaning it will be possible for the company to build one without resource consent should they decide to. There is also the possibility of a berth at Naval Point as a controlled activity, meaning consent will be required.
In a proposed Chapter 10 section, the plan includes a positive intent to include a new cruise ship berth in the port repair and renovations. Ultimately, it is up to the Lyttelton Port Company to make the call on whether or not they will build the berth.
The intricacies of such a big development and the bureaucratic process makes it difficult to decipher - but the upshot of the plan is that it looks very likely we will see cruise ships return to Christchurch. That's great news for cruise lovers, and equally good news for the economy of Christchurch and Canterbury. There is no set timeline, but we look forward to ships docking once more in the Garden City.
In the meantime, cruise ships visiting New Zealand are still able to stop in Auckland, the beautiful Bay of Islands, Bluff, Dunedin, Dusky Sound, Fiordland National Park, Tauranga and Stewart island.