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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Christchurch attractions are getting back to business

Christchurch attractions are getting back to business

Popular activities reopening

Last updated 08:47 30/03/2011
A Christchurch tourist attraction put on ice after the earthquake has reopened.

The International Antarctic Centre, which had been closed for five weeks, held a "soft" opening with discounted tickets on Saturday.

Another tourist drawcard, the 1882 Antigua Boat Sheds on the Avon River near Christchurch Hospital hopes to reopen this week.

Antarctic Centre director Richard Benton said although the building sustained no damage, the state of emergency delayed its structural assessment.

After being declared safe by inspectors, equipment checks caused further delays.

The centre's penguins had been cared for by staff during the closure, Benton said.

"A lot of people have asked about the penguins. They're all good."

Benton said it was exciting to have the business open and customers returning.

"It's all about trying to put something back into Canterbury and getting people out and doing things."

Visitor numbers were down about 30 per cent despite a "busy" weekend, Benton said.

Overseas visitors make up about 70 per cent of the centre's business.

"Obviously, that's quite challenging at the moment with people not coming through as we'd like," Benton said.

"It's going to take 12 to 18 months before we start to see the levels of visitation that we used to enjoy."

AirAsia flights into Christchurch from tomorrow were among the "positives on the horizon", Benton said.

The centre was forced to cut about 30 of its 65 staff during the closure.

"If our business picks up to the levels where we want it to, then, clearly, we'll be looking to bring people back.

"But we're taking a fairly conservative approach based on the events over the past five weeks," Benton said.

Antigua Boat Sheds spokesman Angus Lindsay said the building still needed Christchurch City Council clearance.

Lindsay said the river water looked "as clear as normal".

The boat-shed cafe had begun restocking, but reopening the paddle-boat and kayak hire would be delayed by the construction of a new ramp.

Foot traffic had returned to the area, Lindsay said.

"The phone calls we've had . . . and the hospital staff have been coming over every day," he said.

"There's nothing for coffees or meals in this area any more."

Punting on the Avon, which is owned by a separate company, expects to be operating by Easter.

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