New 450-space car park for Christchurch Hospital a 'step in the right direction'

A new 450-space parking building near Christchurch Hospital and extra staff parking is a “step in the right direction”, but some nurses question whether it's enough.

The new building would be about 350 metres from the hospital and would be built within two years.

It is part of a package to bring more than 650 new car parks into the area. Two floors and 238 parks will also be added to existing Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) staff car park on Antigua St by the first half of 2022.

The upgrade to the existing staff car parking building would add 238 spaces. The current waitlist is 360.

The chair of the nurses union in Canterbury also raised concerns about the 350m distance between the new visitor car park and the hospital, and whether it would be a manageable walking distance for the elderly.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) Canterbury chairperson Cheryl Hanham said shuttles or wheelchairs may need to be available for the new 450-space car park.

“Otherwise it's going to make life still equally as difficult around that area,” she said.

Hanham also wanted some reassurances staff would be able to use that car park in the afternoon and evenings if there was space, “because we still will never have enough staff car parking”, she said.

Hanham said there was still a lot of work to do to protect staff.

Nursing staff have been attacked at night during long walks to their parked cars, staff have arrived hours early to secure a park before sleeping in their cars, and some have been fined for parking at the fringes of nearby Hagley Park.

Nurse Harriett Twiss had worked at Christchurch Hospital for seven months and did not have access to staff car parking.

“We just have to make do,” she said.

“I got told I was number 400 on the waiting list when I applied in January.

“I guess when there [are] car parks, people will get them.”

Twiss said the new 450-space parking building would definitely help patients and visitors.

“I know there’s a lot of resentment and stress with people trying to come in and drop relatives off or see relatives ... and they can’t get anywhere near the building, so it all adds to their stress.”

Nurse Jaclyn Smith said the extra two levels for the staff building was "definitely a good idea”. She had waited 18 months before getting a car park in August, she said.

A senior nurse from Christchurch Hospital, who declined to be named, said she had a car park in the staff building, but had to wait three years to get it.

Car parking was “a huge problem” and it had been an “added stress" for both staff and visitors, she said.

An extra 238 extra parks for staff was “a start”, she said.

The 450 parks for visitors was great and “better than what we've got now”, but it would probably still not be enough, she said.

“[It is] a step in the right direction.”

A 2017 report by Quality Transport Planning, which the CDHB suggested still reflects the current need, said two 700-space car parks were needed while National MP and deputy leader Gerry Brownlee previously said he thought about 1000 parks would be needed to be meet demand.

The new 450-space building for the public will be built and run by Ngāi Tahu property and Ngāi Tūāhuriri on CDHB land in the block bounded by St Asaph St and Hagley Ave. It is expected to be finished in 18 to 24 months.

Access to parking near the hospital has been a significant issue in Christchurch post-earthquake, after a multi-storey parking building with 375 spaces on the corner of Tuam and Antigua streets was badly damaged. It was demolished in 2016.

The CDHB currently has 1145 dedicated staff car parks in the central city and 262 for the public.

Its current 430-space staff parking building – which costs staff who have paid for a park $53 a fortnight – cannot meet demand. There are currently 360 people on the waiting list, with another 175 waiting for afternoon access only.

Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Megan Woods said Friday’s announcement was a long-term solution to “a protracted and less than adequate situation".

CDHB acting chief executive Peter Bramley said the Canterbury community had been dealing with a lack of parking since the 2011 quakes, and the CDHB was delighted there would be a permanent solution.

Ngāi Tūāhuriri Ūpoko Dr Te Maire Tau said part of Ngāi Tahu's role as mana whenua of the community was to look after people in their community.