Gordon Kirk was my neighbour. That was many years ago. I thought of him during Mike Esposito’s Speech at the official re-opening of our Welcome Aboard Gondola.
Gordon Kirk had a long-time passion for the Port Hills. Aged in his 70s, his long stride was hard to match when walking on the hills. I once accompanied him on the Crater Rim Walkway long before the trail was developed. It was tough going but we paused long enough to get a photograph of Gordon with a backdrop much like that seen these days from the Gondola’s top station.
I recall, in a newspaper story, comparing him to that famous Summit Road pioneer, Harry Ell. I do not think he entirely approved with the comparison. At the time Gordon was president of the Summit Road Society. More than 20 years ago he was leading a Summit Road Society protest against the building of the Port Hills Gondola cableway. I heard all about it mostly while yarning over our dividing fence – something we did frequently. One objection to the proposed Gondola development was Gordon’s cousin Norman Kirk, a future Prime minister, having introduced the Reserves Act to Parliament. The Gondola developers were riding roughshod over that.
More importantly, he was worried the Gondola development would fail to be a commercial success. One could argue that the developers’ prospectus was misleading particularly the expected numbers to ride the Gondola and support its facilities.
If the development failed who would dismantle the complex? Would it forever remain a collection of rusting hulks and a perpetual eyesore on hills that are the pride of Christchurch?
Well that did not happen then. But it was a real possibility in the aftermath of the February 2011 earthquake. Advisors had suggested the company walk away taking a pay-out to buy a house in Auckland. Hence Mike Esposito’s brilliant comment, “Where is the challenge in that?”
And hence Mike’s speech making me think of my one-time neighbour. Gordon Kirk was a truly wonderful guy commanding widespread respect. He died some years ago and I was honoured to speak, briefly, at his well-attended funeral.
I regret I am unable to take him to see the re-opened Port Hills Gondola. He would not only experience a complex that is commercially secure, he would approve of the determination and vision of Mike Esposito and his Welcome Aboard Christchurch company to save and revitalise the Port Hills attraction. I am confident Gordon Kirk gives his heartfelt approval.