Emma Times Two

Time: June 12, 2014

Location: Antigua Boatsheds

Item: Welcome Aboard staffer, Emma from the Tram office, meets a new Punting on the Avon craft named after her and takes a first ride

Emma the new 10-seat river punt was built by Jeff Walkerden at Ohoka near Christchurch.  Punting on the Avon Operations Manager Jamie Storie assisted the construction, gaining sufficient skills to tackle on-going punt maintenance. The skills were nicely timed, with Jeff Walkenden having since departed New Zealand.

Jamie says the punting operation needed a new craft owing to earthquake aftermath damage to two punts, Kate and Otakaro. Kate was able to be repaired. Otakaro was deemed munted.

Jamie decided to name the new craft after Emma, his partner.

But first, he sought advice from long-time punter and former Punting on the Avon owner Wesley Golledge.

“Wesley told me he had never named a punt after a girlfriend or partner.  Doing so, he said, could come back and bite me.”

Jamie stuck to his plan and named the new punt Emma.

“I remembered one of our punts, Stella, had been named by a former punter, Luke Bulger, after his partner.

“Luke set a brave precedent and it turned out well. Maybe that is a good omen,” chuckled Jamie.

Emma was treated to a spin on the river, the sole passenger aboard Emma. Then, with punter Adrian in charge, Emma took a full load on her inaugural trip up the river.

Despite the cool, dull Saturday, punting was in great demand with punts loaded with people snug with rugs and hot water bottles. Winter is no deterrent to a guided ride on the river.

Ohoka has a long association with skilled punt building. With Jeff Walkerden’s departure, Jamie predicts a re-think about future punt construction. Ferrymead’s skilled tramcar restorer and wood worker, Graeme Richardson, is presently assisting Jamie with maintenance of the punt fleet. One expects, between them, they could build a punt from scratch. A new punt such as Emma has an expected working life of 10 to 15 years.

“The basics, working with marine ply, are simple enough,” says Jamie.

“It is only in some of the details it becomes complicated.”

The Emmas

Otakaro

Emma  EmmaFirst run

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500 Annual Passes to give away

Tune into More FM 92.1 and be in to win a Welcome Aboard Annual Pass as one of the radio station’s promotions.

The much valued pass provides unlimited rides on Christchurch Tram and Christchurch Gondola for one year. It also offers discounts on other company attractions. Welcome Aboard is giving a lot away but believes, in addition to promoting its attractions, winners may wish to renew their passes the following year. The radio promotion will be aired at various times during the broadcasting day to capture a range of listeners. The promotion is scheduled to run through the winter months.

It is a great time to have an Annual Pass to use when opportunity permits. The trams are set to improve with the re-instating of the complete city loop in late 2014 and further extending of the track in 2015.

The Gondola experience has had a makeover with improved cabins and facilities, including the Red Rock Café at the summit station. It is the ideal spot for an impromptu coffee or lunch visit.

Feedback from More FM has been excellent. People having won a pass have emailed stating they did not expect such an attractive prize. 

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Down Memory Lane

Retirement village patrons have been jolting their memories of Christchurch’s central city. Welcome Aboard’s Christchurch Tramway has been hosting A Trip Down Memory Lane tours for local retirement complexes, with the most recent comprising 11 residents of Fendalton Retirement Village. There was no doubt that they enjoyed the experience: their smiles and comments said it all. They were informed and pampered by motorman Ken and entertained by exuberant tram host Masa. In New Regent Street they met the Wizard and his apprentice.

Rolling through Cathedral Square and onward over Worcester Street bridge and through the boulevard, bright faces took in the vistas in various stages of demolition and rebuild. The Arts Centre rebuild offered plenty of views as did the dyslexia garden and the Art Gallery under repair. Widest eyes were kept for the former Anglican Cathedral and its surrounds when returning through the Square. Back in Cathedral Junction Masa had been busy transforming the group’s tram tickets into a collection of animated origami. He presented one to each of the residents, explaining how some of them worked. A delighted woman discovered her folded paper bird had flapping wings when its tail was gently pulled. Another resident told Masa about a trip she had once taken with her husband to Otaru city in Japan’s northern Hokkaido Island.

The tour concluded with afternoon tea nearby at the delightful Seasons café. Tables were soon agreeably scattered with tea pots, steaming coffee cups and yummy slices.

A Trip Down Memory Lane tickets cost $10 per retirement home resident and include a free memento. Afternoon teas can be organised with Seasons café at residents’ own cost.

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Better outcome for Christchurch and Canterbury

TRENZ (Tourism Rendezvous New Zealand), having inaugurated its first conference event in 1985, has become the largest international showcase for the New Zealand travel industry. TRENZ typically attracts around 300 travel and tourism buyers from about 30 countries.

Welcome Aboard Christchurch sales and marketing manager Blair Hartland has just returned from this year’s event feeling upbeat about Christchurch and Canterbury.

TRENZ 2014 was held at The Cloud on Auckland’s Queens Wharf.

“An excellent venue,” says Blair. “Including media, attendance hit about 1000. Welcome Aboard had 52 appointments with almost every one very positive.

“Christchurch and Canterbury got an encouraging hearing from agents keen have us back on their itineraries.”

He adds, “We need to be realistic. Christchurch, following the earthquakes, has been lacking the visitor experience. Having said that, our Welcome Aboard attractions are as good as ever.”

Other good points include more hotel rooms becoming available along with other accommodation.

“We are getting the message out that Christchurch is slowly but surely getting back on its feet. A real need is to get more cafes, bars and restaurants close to accommodation. These are cultural things visitors expect in a city.”

He points out that a significant earthquake is considered to be over when the shaking stops.

“The reality is that is where the problems start. We were considered a write-off as a region even though the earthquakes were mostly a city-only problem. Canterbury has remained almost untouched and as majestic as ever. Being one of the best New Zealand regions to visit in terms of diversity has not changed.

“People from Europe don’t distinguish Christchurch from the South Island. To them it is all the same place. And Australia, our best market, was bombarded by the media with earthquake woes.

Blair stresses we are in rebuild mode, even if we think progress is slow.

“This year’s TRENZ was much more positive for our region than the last three. Everyone feels we are getting there. Welcome Aboard attractions are definitely leading the way. People see the heritage trams plying the streets, the punts on the Avon, the thriving Botanic Gardens with our Caterpillar Tours. It all looks to be happening in the visitor attraction arena.

“The re-opening of the complete city tram loop and the extension being completed will be a great boon for local tourism. Travel agents tell us they are keen to see the Restaurant Tram back.  That will happen later this year when we have a more viable tram route.

“At the next TRENZ, in Rotorua, I am keen to tell agents our tramway is not only fully operational but extended through the Re-start Mall and emerging CBD.”

He says TRENZ has been excellent for getting our message out.

“We had a big interest amongst Australian agents. The UK market is returning and the US is stabilising.

“Japan was our second biggest market pre-quakes.  Japan was quick to turn off but JTB and other Japanese companies are becoming involved again. It might take a couple of more years of no problems at this end before the Japanese visitor numbers build significantly.’’

Blair also explains about the impact of emerging travel markets including China, South America (mainly Brazil), Indonesia and India.

To attend TRENZ, tour companies are required to make an application which then goes before a team of experts who decide the outcome.

“We have never been turned down,” Blair says.11 NR Mural

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Slender lifeline

Ever wondered who makes those lifeline cords essential for bungy jumpers?

I was lucky enough to visit a long attic storage room at Thrillseekers Adventures in Hanmer Springs as staffer Graham Nicholson was two hours into fabricating a new bungy cord. He said it would be finished in another four.

Rain splashes against the windows. The Waiau River is rising and looking angry. It’s the ideal day for the task Graham tells me.

“Wet days mean no interruptions.”

The long attic is also ideal. The working area has to be free of grit or other foreign objects getting in between the wraps of latex rubber. Such intrusions would cause friction and prematurely wear the cord.

Graham says he has absolute confidence in his work. He will sleep well tonight knowing his new bungy will never fail.

“Bungy jumpers need to have confidence in our work.”

He fabricates about three new cords a year. A bungy is retired after 500 jumps and cut into short lengths to ensure it cannot be used again. The short lengths are sold as trendy souvenirs.

Bungy cords are made to cater for three weight categories. The 50 mm wide latex rubber is sourced from Singapore. The wraps are laid out at 5.7 metres before being stretched to 11 metres and turned in on itself before being tied off at four equal lengths. The strength of a cord is determined by the number of wraps. The cord being made by Graham is an intermediate strength of 24 wraps for jumpers weighing in at 63 to 80 kg. It will be identified by a red sleeve on an end bobbin.

Graham’s next task is to cross-bind the wraps. It is more cosmetic than anything but also prevents objects, including fingers, getting caught between layers of latex. He uses thin rounds of rubber, locking each cross bind with a reef knot. 

The New Zealand bungy cord style is known as ‘exposed latex’ resulting in a softer, longer bounce.

When cross binding along the 11 metre cord is complete, the bungy will be tied to a tree and stretched in stages up to four times its length. When relaxed it will be measured and all details recorded on a spec sheet.

The final stage will be to test the cord with dummy minimum and maximum weights tumbling from the 35-metre high historic Ferry Bridge. An assistant in a jet boat will ensure the dummy weight drops no lower than to three metres above the water. This is another safety issue owing to Thrillseekers not offering water dips.

“The river has rocks,” Graham wryly tells me.

He says the Thrillseekers bungy jump offers a thrilling ground rush and rebound.

“Some people do one jump to tick off the experience. Others become bungy jumping junkies.

“For all, sheer terror transforms into an adrenalin-induced buzz. Everyone feels so grateful after the jump,” says Graham. 

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Gardens Tour now better than ever

Welcome Aboard’s popular Botanic Gardens Tour has got even better. The reason? It now stops outside the inspirational new Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre.  Designed to appear like a large airy glasshouse, the Visitor Centre is certainly compatible with its garden surrounds.  Design of the $16.4 million complex was put out to competition and awarded to local architects Patterson Associates, with Leighs Construction the builders. It was opened by Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on April 14, becoming the first civic complex in Christchurch to be inaugurated post-earthquakes. It provides a modern working complex for Botanic Gardens staff along with previously behind-the-scenes working displays for visitors to see.

Features include a functions room overlooking the river, a fascinating exhibition about the story of Christchurch shown through plants and gardens, a working nursery, botanical library, toilets and gift shop, as well as a café scheduled to open in mid-May.

For staff, it is a far cry from their previous workplace where separate areas catered for men and women, and chicken wire covered the chimney to keep possums out.  The new centre had been planned prior to the earthquakes to coincide with the Botanic Gardens 150th anniversary, commemorated during 2013.

This last week of April and the following week are best time to visit the Botanic Gardens to enjoy the peak of autumn. The colours are turning very well. Taking a Gardens Tour aboard the appropriately-named electric-powered Caterpillar vehicle is not just for those unable to walk around the extensive Botanic Gardens. The tour drivers/guides are a mine of fascinating information: hear the stories of the plants and trees, why one tree would puzzle a climbing monkey, the best tree from which to make a bow and arrow, which tree grown for its cork bark and see why the silver fern, symbol for some New Zealand sports teams, is so named. And of course, take some time for a self-guided tour of the new Visitor Centre. A pleasant hour can be passed there until the next Gardens Tour arrives. 

Caterpillar Gardens Tours depart on the hour (11 am to 3 pm) from just inside the Christchurch Botanic Gardens entrance. The tour calls at the Visitor Centre on the half hour.

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Enter Flat Man and Phoenix

They arrive, one tall and one short. Both wear flowing cloaks and face masks.

The Spiderman-like duo do not soar self-propelled to the heights of Mount Cavendish. They step aboard a Christchurch Gondola cabin and glide up the wire. 

The taller one checks in as the mysterious Flat Man, and the small guy as five-year-old Phoenix. He might be Flat Man’s apprentice?

Flat Man, a University of Canterbury student, keeps his real identity secret even from his flatmates. Following the Christchurch earthquakes he promoted himself as Christchurch’s superhero, dressed for the role, and began distributing food parcels to those in need. He visited schools and families, spreading a philosophy of kindness and generosity.

His apprentice is distinguished by his different mask. It is part of a bandage covering much of his body. He suffers from chronic eczema.  Bandages help to eliminate itching and scratching.

It is Phoenix’s big day out. It began with a medal presentation by assistant Christchurch mayor, Vicki Buck. A visit to the Antarctic Centre followed.

They were heading up for lunch at the Red Rock Café when I spotted them. It is the perfect day.

“The Gondola is just an essential part of Christchurch,” Flat Man says. “The views are spectacular.”

Also spectacular is the table awaiting Flat Man, Phoenix, Grandma and one or two others. The centrepiece is a cake encircled with chocolate and iced with a Spiderman image.

Grandma is Phoenix’s guardian for his special day out. She says chronic eczema is a terrible condition too many children suffer from.  Phoenix does not go to school, and is instead schooled at home.

She recalls the evening Flat Man appeared on TV 3 Campbell Live.

“Phoenix became an instant admirer. His eyes lit up. It was amazing. I started to dress him in a cloak to help take his attention away from his uncomfortable, painful condition. He is well known in the community. When we go shopping people will say, ‘Good morning Phoenix.’ Depending on his mood he will say, ‘No I am Spiderman,’ or, ‘I am Superman.’”

“A friend got onto a computer, found the Flat Man website, and sent a message. Flat Man got in touch and Phoenix found a friend and mentor. So here we are up here on this beautiful day. I cannot believe how kind the Gondola staff have been to us. Look at this wonderful cake.”

Phoenix is a likeable, lively kid. Rather than having him sit for a long time, Flat Man takes him for a run around the Gondola building balcony. A convenient circuit can be made with an occasional pause for the view. On one side of the hill a paraglider takes to the skies. 

 Meeting Flat Man, Phoenix and Grandma is an inspiration.

Inspired by emergence of the Student Volunteer Army following the Christchurch earthquakes, Flat Man says he is getting out there and helping others in any way he is able. His Flat Man costume has a distinctive lightning bolt logo. Initially he funded his philanthropy himself, but as his profile has grown he has been overwhelmed by donations and support.

“If I can do something to bring just a little joy to those in need, then why not?”

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