The Avon of our future

Last updated 08:34 03/09/2012

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Geoff Barry makes a case for a recreational Avon Corridor.

Talk about the world's greatest cities and there's always mention of their 'heart'. What actually delivers much of the attraction - despite much less attention - is their 'artery.'

In Christchurch, this is our Avon. The Avon River traverses a natural environment that is unlike anywhere else in the world.

The Avon environment is characterised by ocean, river, estuary and earthquakes - which have created new land use on either side of the river.

The Avon of our future could play a drastically different role than we remember from the past. It could create an opportunity for the South Island's largest city, unmatched by any other city in the world.

The new Avon Corridor may be recognised as more than a natural feature of eastern Christchurch, but a unique Canterbury icon holding appeal for locals and visitors alike.

After all, the Avon Corridor is a resilient channel linking our city to the sea, from Hagley Park to the estuary, along the seaside suburbs of Sumner and Scarborough. It could evolve as a pathway of opportunity that enhances the already unique eastern suburbs environment with their wetlands, Bottle Lake Forest Reserve and coastline.

The Avon's unique natural environment could enable Christchurch to create a world-leading corridor that has opportunities for nature and culture, leisure and commerce. The river's banks could be buzzing with farmers' markets, cycling tracks, science class trips and international events. These are only examples - and only part of the proposed corridor's appeal.

A new Avon Corridor could feature a manmade lake, conceived to mitigate risks in the event of local flooding. It could realise its potential as a natural wetlands habitat, home to diverse birdlife. It could host training and competition for various water sports.

It can inspire - festivals, farmers markets, family picnics. It can be fun. Imagine paddling, cycling, walking and even wedding parties on the tree-lined banks.

It could be buzzing - with cafes, cycle shops, rollerblade hire and weekend events.

The change that has already taken place has created this unique opportunity. The new Avon Corridor could promote learning, leisure, recreation, sport, commerce and community. It could play an important role in active transport, supporting Christchurch's aspirations as a cycle-friendly city.

The test of a great city comes down to simple questions after all. For example: Is this a city where you would want to raise your family?

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A city that balances business with pleasure, promoting access for everyone and active transport options, is a city that sets itself apart in the world.

Geoff Barry is chief executive of Sport Canterbury, a charitable trust. See sportcanterbury.org.nz.

- The Press

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