Queues as fire-affected Chch residents return home

11:01 am on 21 February 2017

Residents of 102 houses off limits for a week because of the Port Hills fire were smiling as went through two cordons lifted this morning.

Residents are let through the cordon on Kennedys Bush Road.

Residents are let through the cordon on Kennedys Bush Road. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

The two cordons, on Kennedys Bush Road (83 homes) and Hoon Hay Valley Road (19 homes), opened to residents only from 8am, Civil Defence controller David Adamson said.

At the Kennedys Bush Rd cordon, cars were lined up to go through.

Residents told RNZ News it felt good to finally go home.

One family said they had stayed in four different places since they were evacuated.

Kennedys Bush Road resident David Kay said his family had stayed in four different places since they were evacuated on Wednesday.

He said it was a relief to go home.

Police checked IDs to ensure people entering were residents, while rubbish trucks headed through.

The Hoon Hay Valley Rd cordon lifts to residents. Photo taken 21 February.

Police check IDs at the Hoon Hay Valley Rd cordon. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

The cordon openings were permanent, based on the current fire situation, Civil Defence said.

The recreational tracks at the top of Kennedys Bush Road remained closed.

There was no change to the cordons on Worsleys Road, where 51 homes were empty.

Civil Defence controller Anne Columbus told Morning Report residents could expect delays as there was likely to be an initial rush.

"In Kennedy's Bush area, we've got about 83 houses, we might see families coming home today, parents and kids. And in Hoon Hay Valley Road we've got 19 houses. We're also really aware that people might have work commitments and things that might not work for them right from 8am."

Civil Defence said geotechnical engineers will today assess parts of Victoria Park and Dyers Pass Road, where cordons also remained in place.

Mayor takes responsibility for communication bungle

Residents on Kennedys Bush Road had argued it was safe for them to return and that officials failed to convince them it was still too risky.

Firefighters have described the fire area as extremely hazardous with a risk of hot spots flaring up.

They said there was a significant risk of the fire spreading again if there was a breakout in the next few days.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel yesterday said she took full responsibility for the communication breakdown during the fire.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Selwyn Mayor Sam Broughton face the media on 16 February.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Selwyn Mayor Sam Broughton face the media. Photo: Christchurch City Council

Ms Dalziel said the council should have registered every person straight away so they could be updated regularly, updated the website every hour and held regular small meetings, not one big one on Saturday.

When asked if a state of emergency should have been declared earlier, she said: "That is something we will review later".

Fire heightens rockfall risk

Meanwhile, geotechnical engineers are warning about a risk of rockfalls on the Port Hills, where the slopes are more unstable as a result of the fires.

They said forests were badly damaged both by the flames and firefighting operations, particularly the sluicing work.

Engineer Nick Charters said work would continue today to shift large boulders on the slopes above Dyers Pass Road.

He said holes had been dug downhill from the boulders.

They hoped to release the boulders into those holes, but warned some would fall on Dyers Pass Road and the Harry Ell walkway.

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