Work to clear hundreds of years of built-up sediment from the Avon River may help entice trout, eels and native birds back to the city.
The Avon River Precinct, one of New Zealand's biggest urban restoration projects at a cost of $96 million, spans 3.2 kilometres from the Watermark to Fitzgerald Ave.
This latest stage will clear the river, narrow it in key areas and reintroduce habitats to encourage wildlife to return. It will cost about $4m.
"We as Cantabrians love Christchurch and the Avon River but we haven't always looked after it," said lead ecologist Shelley McMutrie. "Over 100 years sand and silt has smothered the river . . . that is not an environment that anything can live with."
She said clearing silt was a critical first step in restoring the river to a healthy state.
"In five years time I would like to see the Avon as a shining example of what we can do to return urban waterways to health."
Diggers the length of the precinct would spend the next five months clearing the silt and sand.
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said the objective was to restore the river as close as possible to its original condition.
"Although the constraints of an urban environment will always limit us . . . this restoration programme, coupled with other works in the precinct, will ensure that we have a healthy river, with a strong ecosystem, sitting comfortably alongside our city."
Work would also include washing of the gravel to remove years of built-up sediment.
Treatment through rain gardens would clean stormwater from the roads before it entered the river.
The creation of overhangs and placement of rocks would provide habitats for fish, while planting and landscaping would support birdlife.
"All this will form an integral part of the experience of the Avon River Precinct, connecting people to the river and the river to the city in a way which will make it an outstanding and world-class attraction," Brownlee said.
- The Press