Green shoots in the suburbs

BRANCHING OUT: The Tannery in Woolston was among the early signs of urban renewal outside the CBD.
BRANCHING OUT: The Tannery in Woolston was among the early signs of urban renewal outside the CBD.

A battle to rebuild and revive Christchurch's earthquake-hit suburbs is under way. Marc Greenhill reports.

River park, water sports course or a hill from which to view the sunset.

These are some of the suggested future uses for the eastern red zone - an area about four times the size of Hagley Park written-off by the Government.

However, the red zone is just one of the Christchurch's damaged areas where plans to improve fortunes will gear up this year.

City council-led master plans for Lyttelton, Sydenham, Linwood, Sumner, New Brighton, Spreydon and Edgeware have largely been overshadowed by big-ticket improvements to the central city.

Funding has been set aside for streetscape enhancements in master plan areas, such as road- widening, landscaping, cycle lanes, park upgrades and transitional projects.

In the past six months, work has begun on the new civic square in Lyttelton, art projects and community facilities in Sumner, and the redesign of Buchan Park in Sydenham.

The council has also earmarked millions of dollars to repair and rebuild pools, libraries, halls and community centres, and other community facilities across the city.

Council urban design and regeneration manager Carolyn Ingles said the aim was to link council-funded projects with private investment.

"While [the] council might do some initial catalyst projects, we're really keen to work hand-in- hand with that private sector investment," she said.

"They are council plans but we hope they represent the community."

International disaster recovery research suggested the recovery needed to span a broad range of projects, Ingles said.

"If people recognise these projects are going on and they see that they are of value and are improving the recovery of the centre, if in people's busy daily lives we get that to register, then that is a good thing," she said.

In Woolston, the Tannery has shown suburban renewal is not limited to the most quake-hit areas, while a host of business parks on the fringes of the city are thriving.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said a city-wide recovery plan that linked the CBD and the residential red zone was needed.

"Everything's connected but I don't feel like we've got a city- wide plan, so that's something that council's going to take on this year," she said.

The master plan approach had been "too top down" by being council-led, Dalziel believed.

"We want to transfer the ownership of those projects to community so they should be leading the redevelopment in their own areas, connecting the suburban centres with the residential environment and all of the assets that they contain," she said.

"Opportunity always springs from disaster if you let it."

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) chief executive Roger Sutton said while "big, gutsy" anchor projects would receive attention this year, he hoped suburban projects would as well.

"As leaders, we need to make sure we don't just focus on the big, [but] that we make sure our local pools get fixed and those sorts of things," he said.

Cera is keen to run a public campaign to get the community's input on the red-zone's future use.

The land clearance programme for flat land is expected to be finished by December.

Sutton suggested a hill could provide protection from the easterly wind if the river park idea went ahead.

The Press