Ideas for the future residential red zone

THE FUTURE: A pumpkin farm is one of the ideas for how the residential red zone could be used.
THE FUTURE: A pumpkin farm is one of the ideas for how the residential red zone could be used.

A river festival, community gardens feeding the Christchurch poor, a pumpkin farm and a sound link across the Avon River are just a few of the ideas on how the residential red zone could be used.

Community leaders, gardeners and activists are puzzling over how the 630-hectare residential red zone could be put to productive use after the homes have been demolished but before a long-term future is decided for the land.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) has not begun consideration of how the land could be used but has appointed an ecologist and a landscape architect to look into short-term land management.

''There aren't even any policy papers being written at this stage. The emphasis at the moment is still on the affected people and helping them find the best way to move on,'' a Cera spokeswoman said.

A Labour Weekend event will aim to reclaim the banks of the Avon River for the people of Christchurch.

The Spring River Festival, held over the weekend starting on October 20, will include barbecues, a flotilla, dragon boating, wakas, bike trails, gardening and entertainment on the banks of the river.

Evan Smith, of the Avon Atakaro Network, which is campaigning for the red zone to be turned into a river park, said the festival was organised to keep the area in active use.

''We want to celebrate everything to do with the river and everything out east,'' he said.

''We want to reclaim the river corridor for recreation.''

The festival has the backing of Healthy Christchurch, Cera, the city council, Cancern and the Ministry of Awesome.

The idea of creating six, 2000-square-metre community gardens in the red zone to grow vegetables is being explored by the Christchurch Community Gardens Association.

Association head Christine Blance said the group would need large gardens to grow decent crops of vegetables.

''We are looking into this idea and working quite hard to look at the potential for community gardens. There is a real food-growing opportunity there,'' she said.

''We don't know how easy it will be to establish community gardens there. They could be temporary, but they would need to be on a five-year plan so you could get a decent crop.

''You would need about 2000sqm for a decent community garden. We would love to have three on each side of the river - big, productive gardens.''

Smith is in talks with Cera about a possible community garden site, with schools interested in using the garden as a learning tool.

Another idea for the residential red zone involves creating an audio link across the Avon  where the Medway footbridge once linked two suburbs.

Greening the Rubble trustee Roy Montgomery wants to erect large satellite dishes on either side of the river so people can use them to speak across the water.

A ''whisper dish'' would amplify speech and transmit it to the dish on the other side of the river.

Montgomery said the loss of the bridge left people in the red zone feeling even more cut off.

''If they took the Medway bridge out and didn't replace it with anything, people on one side of the river would not be able to communicate with people on the other side. This could be a way to rejoin both sides of the river,'' he said.

''If you stand in a certain place you can talk to someone on the other side of the river without raising your voice.''

Gap Filler head Coralie Winn said the scale of the residential red zone was overwhelming.

''Our projects are very small and are about getting critical mass,'' she said.

''There needs to be one or two things already there so we can help regeneration. We are supplementing other life.

''It is difficult to apply that to the residential red zone because you are losing everything there. There will be nothing there.

''I don't know how Gap Filler could work in that kind of space. It is such a large area. It feels like it is beyond us.''

Winn said the community needed to be allowed to experiment with the land to find long-term uses.

''We don't really know what we want because we have never been in this situation before,'' she said.

''We need to allow people to conduct experiments temporarily and use the results from that to inform what we do in the long term. It needs to be bottom-up design.''

Greening the Rubble trustee Meg Christie saod the scale of the red zone was overwhelming.

''One of our projects would look like a pimple on an elephant. It is bigger than us.''

Christie said a pumpkin farm would be a good way to use the land.

''I have a vision of a massive pumpkin farm. They are very easy to grow, they are pretty and kids love them,'' she said. ''It would be a great year-round project. In winter you make the compost, kids could plant the seeds in spring, you would water them over the summer and harvest them in autumn.''

Tempelhof Airport - German inspiration

Community leaders pondering the future of the residential red zone could look to Germany for inspiration.

Tempelhof Airport in Berlin was closed to air traffic in 1996 and has been reborn as a city park.

The 400-hectare site, compared to 630ha for the Christchurch suburban red zone, has become one of the largest parks in Europe.

Gap Filler co-founder Coralie Winn said Tempelhof  could provide a model for how to develop the residential red zone in Christchurch.

''The runways and the buildings are still there, but they opened up the space for community experiments,'' she said.

''They turned it over to the people. They were growing food in raised beds, there was a dog park and a sculpture park.

''The local government called in the local community for design ideas. I wonder if something could be learnt from that.

''They were willing to involve the community. They are developing a bigger plan for it, but while they were doing that you can go there and ride your bike or walk the dog.''

Awesome Christchurch ideas

The Ministry of Awesome has been calling for ideas to improve Christchurch.

Here are some ideas contributed to the student group for the residential red zone:

- A giant eel sculpture in the Avon River.
- A fairytale ''troll bridge'' over the Avon.
- A glass viewing tunnel under the Avon River.

The Press