Re-starting Punting from Worcester Street bridge last Friday celebrated another notch-up in Welcome Aboard’s re-emerging tourism attractions. The event also offered a degree of merriment when our mayor, Bob Parker (always a keen supporter of our company), had a crack at punting, admitting it not being a great thing to do for the first time in public. He did look the part wearing a punter’s boater and, despite a swifter river after a week of rain, managed to manoeuvre the punt to cut the ribbon to declare the attraction open.
Our MD Michael Esposito said Welcome Aboard is committed to the rebuild of Christchurch and is delighted to be re-opening punting in the Christchurch CBD after 18 months owing to “Red Zone” restrictions. I have to admire the Welcome Aboard management for hanging in there when their tourist attractions crumbled around them. Even more admirable is the good humour they have maintained with plenty of laughter reverberating through their temporary office.
For the first time the two punting locations are totally different. From Antigua Boat Sheds, the punt experience through the park is just as glorious as ever with minimum evidence from seismic events. (Spring daffodils are already bursting into bloom.) City punting offers a top-of-the-range perspective of the Christchurch Quaked Red Zone. Several well-known landmarks have gone, others are being deconstructed. Boaters Restaurant at the Town Hall looks decidedly sad, having been abandoned since early last year. A poster still bravely promoting a one-time Town Hall show, Triathlons to Tchaikovsky, takes on a ghostly atmosphere. All around is a grating symphony from frenetic demolition machinery. Punters Jamie and Kevin perform a stirling job, especially when working against the strong upstream current. It is smiles all round from the punters and those of us taking a river cruise. In my book, as a Red Zone tour, Welcome Aboard has a winner.
The afternoon pleasingly brought some brisk business to the river. Welcome Aboard looks forward to the Port Hills Gondola attraction re-opening during the coming summer. And the re-start of the trams cannot be too soon.