MP Gerry Brownlee makes sporting declaration

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 02/12/2013
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Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee wants to use the vacant residential red zone to make Christchurch the "sporting capital of New Zealand".

Brownlee said yesterday that the large amount of land in the city's east could become home to a large recreational water course - and solve the area's flooding problem at the same time. Combined with the stadium planned for the central city, Christchurch could achieve "sporting capital" status, he said.

The comments come as demolition is accelerated in the residential red zone, with all flatland residential areas due to be cleared by the end of next year.

Brownlee said he had previously been reluctant to speak about what could be done with the vacant land while residents were still making decisions about their future.

However, 6500 people had now shifted out.

Christchurch was a sporting city and could be recognised for that in the future, he said.

The red-zoned east could become an addition to the city's sporting facilities, with a water course "unique in the Southern Hemisphere".

The park could service rowing, triathlon and open water swimming.

"You can't leave the shingle stopbanks there forever."

Brownlee said he had "taken a couple of hours out" to speak to people involved in building internationally-acclaimed Dorney Lake, near Windsor, while he was in London for Margaret Thatcher's funeral.

He understood the Olympic rowing lake had a drying impact on the surrounding land.

Brownlee said the water park plan would need to involve the Christchurch City Council, but there was nothing formalised yet.

"It's a discussion that needs to be had. It would be a massive asset to the city.

"I'm happy to be held to it if it's a very long timeline."

Canterbury Rowing regional manager John Wylie was unaware Brownlee was looking at the water park concept.

He said the organisation had been advocating such a plan for years, and hoped Brownlee's comments were "an indication there is an ability to do it".

An earlier plan for a water park between Sparks and Cashmere roads was shelved after the earthquakes.

Wylie hoped a watercourse could be "piggybacked" with drainage work in the eastern suburbs. The quakes had narrowed the Avon River and rowers based at Kerrs Reach could not go beyond the Avondale Bridge.

High-performance and senior rowers had been training on the Waimakariri and Selwyn rivers in the interim.

Wylie said the capacity for water sports to grow was there.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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