Editorial: Call for red zone boldness vital but let's not wait another six years
OPINION: Cantabrians who have a big idea for the future shape of the residential red zone, but who have not yet put in a submission, better get cracking. Submissions close on Monday, April 24.
So far, more than 100 submissions on the red zone's future have been received by Regenerate Christchurch, the agency established a year ago to lead the city "from recovery to regeneration". In addition, more than 1000 children have supplied postcards with their personal visions of tree houses, skate parks, animal shelters and even a theme park.
Regenerate Christchurch – a joint Christchurch City Council and Crown organisation – was formed alongside the Otakaro Limited government agency to take over the roles of the former Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority. Regenerate Christchurch's job includes coming up with a plan for the Otakaro Avon River Corridor between Barbadoes St and Bexley, enveloping the residential red zone, parks and the former Avonside Girls' High School site.
Regenerate Christchurch chief executive Ivan Iafeta describes the development of the 600-hectare area (about three and a half times the size of Hagley Park) as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop "bold and even outrageous ideas".
* Daring to be bold in the Otakaro Avon River corridor
* What is about to happen to Christchurch's red zone?
* First steps into Christchurch's residential red zone
* Regenerate Christchurch lays out process, not progress, on developing the red zone
* Making sense of the Avon red zone
* Christchurch water course plans in 2017, but red zone funding remains murky
Some of the ideas so far advanced, particularly through the Avon-Otakaro Network of enthusiastic visionaries, have indeed bordered on the interestingly outrageous and aspirational. They include an Eden NZ Project, based on the Eden Project in the United Kingdom, an ecological and scientific hothouse which attracts more than a million visitors a year to its connected geodesic domes.
Other ideas include a cable-driven water sport park, a whitewater course, a lake for international rowing and racing events, a family swimming lake, an ecological reserve dedicated to food production or mahinga kai, community gardens, new wetlands, and a native forest park.
A 12km walking, running and cycle trail from the city to New Brighton is expected to be fully open early in 2018.
Exactly how future projects might be funded is still to be decided. Regenerate Christchurch will investigate the viability of them on a case-by-case basis. A plan for the Avon River corridor will be released early next year.
Cantabrians had high hopes for the future of Christchurch following the destruction of the February 2011 earthquake. This motivated 10,000 people to contribute to the Share an Idea expo in May that year which came up with a collective vision of what a rebuilt "city in a garden" might look like.
Those hopes have not been fully realised – nowhere near. Six years later, the city centre is still in parts a patchwork of missed opportunities. This cannot be allowed to happen again in the corridor of green which stretches from the city towards the sea.
Eight thousand residential properties were red-zoned following the earthquakes, and the Government spent $1.5 billion to buy them into Crown ownership. That represents a loss to the city and the country which has not yet been redeemed. The land those former homes occupied now provides grounds for new optimism. It is important to get this right.
It could be that the Avon River corridor provides a last chance for something special which helps to place and keep Christchurch on the map.