Vision of city by the water

VISION: Major works for the $85m precinct will begin in the new year.
VISION: Major works for the $85m precinct will begin in the new year.

It spans 3.2km, will cost upwards of $85 million and, in the minds of its champions, will change the shape of central Christchurch.

The Te Papa Otakaro/Avon River Precinct takes in five areas through the city from the newly opened Watermark section, between the Antigua Boatsheds and Montreal St, along to Fitzgerald Ave.

It has brought together 40 designers, landscape architects, ecologists, civil engineers and transport engineers working full time on a project that does not come around very often.

"It is very rare that you get to work on a whole length of a river and all the activities along it," said Christchurch Central Development Unit general manager of design and planning Don Miskell.

Next month those people will present the most serious incarnation of their vision so it can move forward and become a reality.

It will be Christchurch's first anchor project - a fact Miskell said was symbolic of its importance in the Christchurch recovery.

"It's going to change the shape of the city."

Preliminary designs seen by The Press suggest a central city by the water - in some places like Melbourne's South Bank, but still unique.

It will feature a cycleway the length of the precinct and a promenade that sits close to businesses that will be developed alongside it. In the "North Frame" pedestrians and cars will share the road but pedestrians will have the right of way.

"I think that the promenade and cycleway are strong moves to support vibrance in city life."

There will be special activities along the the river, ranging from the Amazing Place playground to the re-imagined Victoria Square.

Miskell said the designers wanted to keep the square as a green space where people could go on summer days to eat lunch. All the way there was an emphasis on accessibility and safety.

Ecologists had also worked on ways to improve the quality of the river's ecosystem.

There will be areas along the river where it is narrowed, allowing stronger water flow that will wash away silt from river stones. This, in turn, will encourage fish, insect and bird life back into the city.

"We would like to hear the sound of bellbirds back in the city," said Miskell. "They add a sense of place."

Those involved in the project hoped to make Christchurch a destination, he said.

"We are not Singapore, we are not Auckland - what is it about Christchurch that we can keep and enhance?"

The designers worked in collaboration with Christchurch City Council and Ngai Tahu to create a balance of the city's cultural and natural history.

It was important to create precinct that did not skimp on capital costs but left something that could be maintained on a budget, he said.

Major work would start in the new year - The Terraces and the Amazing Place will be open this time next year but it would not be until 2015 that the whole project would be complete.

"We are going to deliver something that the whole city can own."


The Terraces: Aimed at allowing people to get close to the water, with flights of broad steps, ramps and decks to provide access to the river edge.

Watermark: The first section of the river precinct to open, spanning the river's true left bank between Antigua Boatsheds and Montreal Street. Involved a slight narrowing of the river, with landscaping, walkways and improved seating areas. Boardwalks, new street furniture, and lighting have been added.


The Press