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Atrocious, rough, and precarious: The Christchurch roads that still need fixing

Steven Walton
richmond bad road
The surface of Chancellor St, in Richmond, one of the suburbs where the council will fast-track roading upgrades from a government fund.  Steven Walton

Cycling along Marine Parade in New Brighton recently, Brian Donovan almost slammed his head into a car's bonnet.

"I ran into a pothole, and my bike, while it's got fat tyres, this is quite a deep pothole," he explained. Donovan went over the handlebars, and narrowly avoided the car.

Although Donovan admits he's a bit reckless at the best of times, he says cycling down Marine Parade, the main street connecting North and South New Brighton, is "really quite precarious".

But, Donovan's plight may soon be solved. Marine Parade is slated for a major upgrade in a road improvement project recently finalized and signed off by the Christchurch City Council. 

In 2018, the council chose to allocate 40 million dollars of Government funds for fast tracking road upgrades in areas hit hardest by the Canterbury earthquakes. 

Council staff have recommended the money is split between New Brighton; Riccarton; Richmond; Linwood and Woolston; as well as a major section of southern Christchurch.

This is a map of where the city council plans to spend the 40 million dollars from the government. Orange roads represents major upgrades and blue roads are minor. Note: this map does not mark proposed road works that will be council-funded.

While some roads will be given a major upgrade, others will have a 'quick win' intervention.

These 'quick wins' use smart interventions - redesigned crossings, resurfacing, line markings, and other general safety measures - to deliver benefits to residents in a short period of time. 

"We just totally need to get on and fix these broken roads in these areas," Linwood councillor Yani Johanson said moments before the council approved the indicative council plan. 


Brian Donovan says fast-tracked road upgrades will indicate to the people of New Brighton the council is serious about investing in the east side of Christchurch. 

He knows what residents want too - Donovan is a spokesperson for the New Brighton Residents Association, which represents about 60 locals. He's also lived in the seaside community since the earthquakes.

brian donovan
Brian Donovan has lived in New Brighton since the Christchurch earthquakes. Steven Walton

A recent poll by the residents association shows locals believe the state of the roads is the second least-liked aspect of New Brighton, behind the lack of shops.

The proposed road upgrades for the community encompass most of the central beach-side area and are projected to cost slightly over six-and-a-half million dollars.

The major upgrades aims to improve the safety, accessibility and condition of roads and footpaths. 

"Some of the footpaths are actually atrocious," Donovan says, noting the impact this has on elderly residents. He also explains the difficulties for cyclists, using his unfortunate pothole anecdote to perfectly illustrate the situation.

"To get through Marine Parade central area on a bike with kids is really quite precarious," he says. 

Marine Parade, alongside prominent roads such as Bowhill St, Keyes St and Lonsdale St, are slated for major upgrades. These can include kerb-to-kerb rebuilds, intersection improvements and road narrowing, according to council documents. 

In this video, METRONEWS journalist Steven Walton and New Brighton Residents Association spokesperson Brian Donovan discuss one of the roads that will be upgraded.

Donovan says people want to know when they come to New Brighton they have "an easy passage" for events and the new hot pools, due to open next year.

"And some of those surrounding roads to get to New Brighton are not that great," he says. 


Helen Willis has changed shock absorbers in her car because of the bumpy roads in Linwood and Woolston. "A lot of people have moaned about having to replace shockies," she says. 

Council documents show the "roughness" of roads is a major issue in the east-side community, along with "old, narrow, and very tired footpaths". 

Willis, who works at the Woolston Community Centre and lives in Linwood, says she's aware of residents who take different routes to avoid some of the worst roads.

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An example of the condition of the road in Heathcote St, Woolston. Steven Walton

"A lot of these roads, I haven't seen a road work on them in years," she says, adding that she believes the upgrades will boost the morale of locals. 

Nic Morrison, who owns an importing company in Woolston, says it's great the council has chosen to upgrade Heathcote St, where his business is located.

"So even though it'll be a bit messy for a while, eventually it'll make the area seem a lot better, it'll just look a lot better," he says. 

Heathcote St is slated for a minor upgrade of $85,000 dollars followed by a further investment of two million dollars.

Morrison describes the road as "pretty rough, undulating pretty much the entire length of the street", adding that "it definitely needs some attention".

nic morrison
Nic Morrison of Half Price Imports stands on Heathcote St, which will be upgraded. Steven Walton

Linwood councillor Yani Johanson has served the area since 2007 and spoke about the importance of road upgrades when the indicative plan was presented to the council at the end of October. 

"We need to get on and start fixing some of this broken infrastructure, it is having a massive negative emotional impact on people," he told the meeting. 

"It's really, really critical." 


Unlike New Brighton or Linwood and Woolston, where the funding is targeted predominantly in one place, the upgrades to Southern Christchurch have been spread across Spreydon, Cashmere, Somerfield, Beckenham and Waltham. 

The local Cashmere councillor, Tim Scandrett, said at a recent council meeting that every councillor on the campaign trail earlier this year would've heard residents talking about "the issues with broken roads and footpaths". 

The largest upgrade for the southern area will be for Ashgrove, Waimea, Eastern, and Fifield Terraces - a 6.6km stretch of road bordering the Heathcote river, projected to cost $795,000 dollars.

ashgrove terrace
This shows the condition of Ashgrove Terrace, which runs alongside the Heathcote River. Steven Walton

Lower Cashmere Residents Association co-coordinator Sue Bye says Ashgrove Terrace needs work, especially between Barrington St and Colombo St.  "It is a mess at some places along there," she says. 

She says there will be advantages if kerbing or barriers were added to the outer edge of the road. Presently, parts of Ashgrove Terrace have nothing separating the road from the banks of the Heathcote river.

Bye hopes the council will keep the community informed about the upgrades. "We've lived with these problems for a long time, and to think that there might be some light at the end of the tunnel is really good," she says. 

Residents in Somerfield were interested to hear that roads in their community were being prioritized in the upgrades; the topic dominated discussion at a recent Somerfield Residents Association meeting. 

Seven local residents were attendance, and they agreed that making streets safer had to be the priority. They spoke of how older and wider roads in the community were inviting speed. 

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In parts of Ashgrove Terrace, there's no barrier or markings between the road and the banks of the Heathcote River. Steven Walton

One resident spoke of how, when he bikes, he's ended up in the gutter because of unmarked cambered streets. Another resident was aware of a friend who'd twisted an ankle while walking on an old metal gutter cover. 

The meeting came to a consensus that narrowing roads would benefit the community and make crossing the road easier for young and elderly people. 

This point has been noted by the local Cashmere councillor, Tim Scandrett. While discussing the upgrades in a recent council meeting, he noted how the city has "broken footpaths" and elderly residents using them to get around. 

"It is really time to get on and do these," he says. 


Residents will still have to wait a couple of years before the upgrades begin. The current plan is only indicative and needs to be signed off by the Treasury, who manage the central government fund, before work can begin.

The council hopes to begin construction in July 2021 and the upgrades should take three years to complete, the indicative plans states. 

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The condition of a road in Richmond, one of the areas that will receive fast-tracked road upgrades. Steven Walton

Alongside New Brighton, Linwood, Woolston, and Southern Christchurch, other areas that will receive the upgrades are Riccarton, which has an emphasis on small upgrades, and Richmond, which has four major upgrades planned. 

Richmond Residents and Business Association secretary David Duffy did not want to comment due to an upcoming meeting with council staff, but did say he is "happy with the progress". 

Some of Duffy's previous comments about roadworks were cited in the council report about the proposed upgrades.

He says other road upgrades have lifted spirits and allowed residents "to start shredding the somewhat depressing feeling of living in a neglected area of the city".