Call to secure future of Christchurch's red-zoned Avon River corridor

An artist's impression of the Rainbow Room in the Eden project proposed for the red-zoned Avon River corridor.
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An artist's impression of the Rainbow Room in the Eden project proposed for the red-zoned Avon River corridor.

Christchurch must ensure ideas for the red-zoned Avon River corridor survive beyond their planning period, says a network promoting a park for the area.

The Avon-Otakaro Network has reacted to calls from Regenerate Christchurch, the Crown-council body formed to plan the use of the land, for bold and ambitious ideas.

Regenerate Christchurch recently opened public consultation on the land's future. It will put together a mixed-use plan in November.

A red zone design from a children's day.
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A red zone design from a children's day.

The 600-hectare riverside corridor, three and a half times the size of Hagley Park, includes re-zoned former housing land, nine council parks and reserves, and the former Avonside Girls' High School site. 

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Network co-chairman Evan Smith said Regenerate Christchurch's consultation process looked very promising, "but it doesn't mean we can relax".

Smith said there was a danger the plan would not survive when the Regenerate Canterbury Act expired in 2021.

Houses bordering the residential red zone in Avondale.
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Houses bordering the residential red zone in Avondale.

"We need to make sure that the plan, whatever is determined, has durability, that it doesn't dissipate.

"It's imperative that it's either embedded in planning instruments or an act of Parliament."

The network wants the land to be a multi-purpose city-to-sea river park and eco-reserve. Its supporters are a large number of individuals and groups including residents' associations, sporting and recreation clubs, ecology and environmental organisations, social groups and historical societies. 

An artist's image of a rowing course proposed for the red-zoned Avon River corridor.
EAST LAKE TRUST

An artist's image of a rowing course proposed for the red-zoned Avon River corridor.

Smith said the river corridor should be governed for the future by an "overarching trust or whatever" and kept intact. The plan should include interim uses, leaving some land for future generations to find uses for.

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"We need to create a plan and then make sure it cannot be changed by politicians in future … so an area can't be sold off to a developer for a subdivision."

To be called the Otakaro Avon River Corridor Plan, the project is being called the largest regeneration opportunity in New Zealand's history.

Greening the Red Zone's plan for a native forest park in the red zone.
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Greening the Red Zone's plan for a native forest park in the red zone.

Regenerate Christchurch chief executive Ivan Iafeta said all ideas were welcomed and he wanted the public to "be courageous and aim high".

A June design workshop made up of members of the public will be followed by a major exhibition in August or September and then a panel to consider feedback. Regenerate will identify preferred activities and uses for the land, then finalise how they will be paid for and delivered.

More than 80 proposals have already been put forward. They include venues for rowing, surfing and other watersports, a fenced eco-sanctuary for native trees and wildlife, a heritage orchard, and a Christchurch version of Britain's Eden Project eco-tourist attraction.

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism acting chief executive Vic Allen agreed keeping the land intact was important.

"It's such a huge area, it has huge potential for tourism. Visitors want authenticity, they want to get back to nature," he said.

"It can connect the central city and New Brighton through a potentially very attractive pathway and cycleway. One can imagine a ride with various stopping points to learn about flora and fauna."

Allen also said there was enough land for both active and passive tourism and for activities that would attract investment and benefit locals, the city and New Zealand.

"The plan should be aspirational. From a tourism point of view, it's an opportunity for Christchurch to do something that is of world significance." 

 - Stuff

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