Forest park vision for Christchurch red zone

An artist's impression of Bexley Wetlands, as part of the masterplan for the Avon-Otakaro Forest Park.
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An artist's impression of Bexley Wetlands, as part of the masterplan for the Avon-Otakaro Forest Park.

A "low cost, high benefit" plan could transform Christchurch's red zone into a city-to-sea forest park.

The Avon-Otakaro Forest Park group has released plans for an area dubbed Bexley Wetlands, as part of its masterplan for the entire flat-land red zone. 

Proposals for the red zone will be considered by new recovery agency Regenerate Christchurch, which is in charge of developing regeneration plans for various parts of the city.


Some groups have already expressed concerns about perceived favouritism towards a rowing lake to host international sporting events. 

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Avon-Otakaro Forest Park group spokesman and landscape architect Mark Huxtable​ said the vision for the Avon River red zone was to create a "ribbon of green" running from the outskirts of the city centre to the coastal suburb of New Brighton. 

An overview of the proposal developed by the Avon-Otakaro Forest Park group
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An overview of the proposal developed by the Avon-Otakaro Forest Park group

The group's proposal included a cafe and visitor centre at the city-end of the park, a camp site with tree houses and heritage park, and a nature sanctuary. 

"The most important thing is [the red zone] becomes something for everybody and isn't a costly white elephant.

"There's a lot of big expensive projects going on in Christchurch at the moment . . . this is at the lower end of the cost scale," he said. 

He was unable to put a dollar figure on the project but said volunteers could carry out the majority of the planting required and "birds help to fill the gaps".

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Huxtable said existing buildings, such as the former Avonside Girls' High School site on Avonside Drive, could potentially be re-used.

The forest park could catalyse tourism in the red zone, he said, while protecting the city from flooding and pollution.

A network of walking tracks, bike tracks, high ropes courses and parks were included in the masterplan. 

"There needs to be further investigation into all of these proposals and we'd welcome the opportunity to work with Regenerate Christchurch."

Earlier this year, a letter of expectations from the Christchurch City Council and the Crown instructed Regenerate Christchurch to assess the feasibility of a flat-land rowing lake. 

A plan to build a Christchurch version of Britain's famous Eden Project, at an estimated cost of $90 million to $120m, was among the high-profile proposals that would be put to Regenerate Christchurch. 

 - Stuff

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