Editorial: Bleak image of eastern suburbs

21:22, Jul 10 2014
Christchurch east
WHAT THE EAST WANTS: People have said they want water parks, rowing clubs, riverside cafes and more.

There could be no bleaker depiction of the state of parts of the residential red zone than this photograph by Iain McGregor.

It shows the clothesline in the backyard of a house in Bexley bordering red-zone land. It is a symbol of domesticity left isolated amid a swathe of desolation, reflecting almost all the many dreams that were destroyed by the earthquakes.

The picture also demonstrates how important it is that something new, forward-looking and exciting is done with the land that has had to be abandoned in those suburbs. Now that all those who have been forced to go have left, the time for the discussion on what should be done has arrived.

Many of those who had to go did not want to leave. They had made their homes there and built their communities and wanted to be able to continue in them. That was, in the end, not realistically possible. The first big earthquake in September 2010 had done much to damage a lot of land but the second in February 2011 ruined a lot more and put paid to any notion that it could be made safe.

But many communities in the east remain. The land cannot be left as wasteland. There could be no better tribute to those who have been forced to leave than that the red-zone land is used effectively and well, and amenities and facilities created so that those communities and indeed all the people of Christchurch can enjoy them.

The first steps towards this end have in fact already been taken. Eastern Vision, run by former city councillor Peter Beck and community activist Evan Smith, started eliciting ideas from people in the community themselves more than two years ago. Their exercise, which is supported by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, has generated a wishlist of 27 key projects, including water parks, rowing clubs, riverside cafes and the like.


Among the ideas for the east that have already been put up is one being strongly pushed by a coalition of environmental groups for the establishment of a multimillion-dollar predator- proof eco-sanctuary based on Travis Wetlands and taking in a chunk of the red zone.

Some time ago Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee floated the notion of creating a water course "unique in the southern hemisphere", with facilities for rowers, triathlon competitors and even open-water swimming.

The ideas all have their attractions and many of them have the great virtue of having come from eastern suburbs residents. This week a further step in engaging community input was taken with the launch of Evo::Space, an online tool for anyone in Canterbury to look at the 27 main proposals Eastern Vision has collated and give their opinions on them. Since the earthquakes many, particularly in the east, have complained about being ignored and disenfranchised. Evo::Space is an answer to that.

Ideas are one thing, of course; making them work is entirely another. But getting as many constructive contributions as possible at the first step can only be a good thing.

The Press