Restoring the Soul
More than 10 years have passed since the devastating Canterbury earthquakes. And still, the Ōtākaro/Avon River flows through the city of Christchurch to the Pacific Ocean. Many organisations are working to revitalise Christchurch’s Avon River ‘red zone’ from a place of trauma to a multi-purpose river-park corridor. Kathy Catton investigates the state of restoration and uncovers the beautiful hope for the river that runs from city to sea.
hen you lose your home, it’s incredibly traumatic.” These are the words of Evan Smith, Christchurch resident and spokesperson for the Avon-Ōtākaro Network (AvON), who along with over 5000 other homeowners was forced to abandon his home in the residential ‘red zone’ following the 2010/11 earthquakes. This 11km stretch of vacant land ribbons its way from the central business district of Christchurch, along the banks of the Ōtākaro/Avon River, to the sea.
Understandably, the residents feel a very close connection to this land and this river. The Council-led ‘Share an Idea’ initiative in 2011 led to thousands of entries with a clear consensus for a natural restoration project (among many other city-wide projects). A regeneration planning process for the Ōtākaro/Avon River Corridor was undertaken by Regenerate Christchurch in 2017/18. The thrust of this consultative regeneration plan was to provide a visitor experience while at the same time restoring the indigenous natural habitat and taking care of the recreational needs of the community. These needs for walking, jogging and cycling were highlighted during the Covid-19 lockdown, with hundreds of residents enjoying the wide-open green space. Now more than ever, we have a new appreciation for our parks and public recreation spaces.
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