Christchurch Adventure Park loses appeal, must pay nearly $14 million to homeowners after Port Hills fire

The Christchurch Adventure Park has lost her case in the Court of Appeals and will now have to pay nearly $14 million to the owners of homes damaged in 2017 Fire in Port Hills in 2017.

The park failed in its attempt to overturn the March 2021 decision ordering the company to pay out the 80 plaintiffs.

The Supreme Court ruled that the park – a mountain biking, hiking and ziplining company now majority owned by Christchurch City Council – had unknowingly helped spread the 2017 wildfires with its chairlift.

The park argued that it was not negligent when it continued to use its chairlift while the fire burned. It said the staff just followed the manual.

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The Court of Appeal dismissed the case, saying in a judgment released Friday “there is no reason why charges should not follow”.

The 80 plaintiffs were awarded just over $10 million in the 2021 High Court Case. The judge ordered 5% interest added for each year until the amounts were paid. That amount currently stands at $13.8 million.

The fires destroyed 1,600 acres of land, including forest in the 365-acre adventure park, destroyed nine homes and damaged five others.

Pilot Steve Askin died fighting the fires when his helicopter crashed near Sugarloaf Park, away from the adventure park.

There was criticism of the lack of communication when the Port Hills fires in Christchurch first started in 2017.

Iain McGregor/Stuff

There was criticism of the lack of communication when the Port Hills fires in Christchurch first started in 2017.

Doug Pflaum owns one of the most heavily damaged properties.

Doug and his wife Vikki are rebuilding on Worsleys Rd, where the fire destroyed his previous home.

He said the decision was “good news” after six stressful and uncertain years for the neighborhood.

His house was insured for about a third of the cost of replacing it. A neighbor had rebuilt a house half the size of the one she lost, he said.

Pflaum had yet to read the court verdict and was wary of getting too excited before the fee was paid.

The original lawsuit was brought before the Supreme Court by insurance company IAG on behalf of 80 property owners.

In a statement, the company said it was “satisfied” with the Court of Appeal’s decision and continuing discussions with the park’s owner, Leisure Investments NZ Limited Partnership.

The fire started around 7pm on February 13 in an area of ​​the Port Hills known as Marleys Hill. According to the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the fire was seen around midnight within the boundary of the adventure park.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand later found that the probable cause of the fire was arson, although an arsonist was once identified.

The park’s operations manager called for the chairlift to run all night to prevent the cable from overheating and eventually breaking.

But it wasn’t until February 15, as the fire spread further into the adventure park, that the trees on either side of the elevator corridor caught fire.

Helicopters fly over the Port Hills after the fire broke out in February 2017.


Helicopters fly over the Port Hills after the fire broke out in February 2017.

“Flames were seen towering 20 to 30 meters above the pine trees in the park,” the verdict said.

As a result, the elevator seats melted, causing molten plastic to drip onto flammable pine trimmings and “highly flammable” coconut mats below, igniting them.

“It is established that had the seats not caught fire, the fire from the Marleys Hill area would have passed well south of the respondents’ property and that property would not have been affected,” the Court’s ruling said. of Occupation.

Stuff has approached Christchurch Adventure Park and Christchurch City Council for comment.