So goes one of the outstanding comments by Welcome Aboard Christchurch Managing Director, Mike Esposito, at the official opening of the Port Hills Gondola attraction on April 19.
The Council-contracted geotechnical engineer who presented a report following the February 22, 2011, seismic event advised the Gondola attraction would never re-open. It was recommended we take a pay-out and walk away. “Go and buy a house in Auckland” it was suggested.
“Where is the challenge in that?”
I can understand the Auckland prospect not offering Mike a challenge. Dogged determination, occasionally seeking advice from world geological engineering experts and a willingness to thrust long hands into deep pockets has paid off. The Port Hills attraction opened with a hiss and a roar on March 25. It was a brilliant autumn day bringing Canterbury people out in their droves in the lead up to Easter weekend.
A grey day greeted guests, mostly people involved in the Gondola re-start process, for the official re-opening. I noticed a few details not typically on offer at the base station. Before boarding one of the refurbished cableway cabins guests were offered a glass of bubbly. Believe me, climbing aboard with my camera gear and a generously-filled glass when the cabin was moving, albeit slowly, was no easy performance.
The top station was abuzz with guest chatter and Continental Catering staff offering more bubbly along with welcome coffee and nibbles. The entire facility was well polished – the toilets gleamed. It looked good enough for a Prime Minister. Which was just as well with the Right Honourable John Key’s name on the guest list.
Mike Esposito’s speech was brilliant in my view. It demonstrated ample passion and a modesty that failed to completely mask a deserved pride. His speech followed a blessing by Douglas Couch of the Rapaki Marae. When Mike mentioned his efforts to get another Welcome Aboard attraction, the City Tramway, up and running this year, the Prime Minister, John Key, led the applause. Mike referred to the lookalike Olympic Gold Medal on the commemorative plaque soon to be unveiled. Re-starting the Gondola attraction, although mostly involving working behind closed doors, was nevertheless an effort comparable to an Olympic champion.
Prime Minister, John Key, was obviously impressed, inspired even. Before officially opening the facility he said, “It was a great day of celebration for Christchurch. Mike’s story is a story of courage and determination, faith and belief in Christchurch.” The Prime Minister also mentioned the progress being made in rebuilding Christchurch, observed during his regular visits, along with the resilience of Canterbury people. He mentioned his recent trip to China and his belief, as Minister of Tourism, New Zealand’s ability to cater admirably for a huge influx of visitors from that country.
The Gondola opening was followed a few hours later by the opening of the repaired and spruced up New Regent Street to the public. The so-called Cardboard Anglican Cathedral is on target to open in June. With so much happening one can hope Tourism New Zealand will elect to go into bat for Christchurch with some worthy domestic and international promotion.
Another official opening this week by the Prime Minister was the rebuilt Christchurch Airport, clearly the Number One air travel terminal in New Zealand.