In a place like Christchurch where, in recent years, there has been an intense focus on planning for the future, stopping to just focus on the ‘here and now’ can be tempting.
While life should never be all work and no play, we need to choose our moments and, when it comes to the local economy, we must not allow any false sense of security to mask the challenges still ahead. With growth slowing and unemployment above the national average, the city is emerging from the recovery to find itself at economic crossroads with the amber lights flashing.
The need for more people living in the central city identified in Regenerate Christchurch’s analysis of central city momentum is one challenge. Another is the need for about 70,000 extra workers to improve productivity and offset the effect of an ageing population over the next 15 years.
ChristchurchNZ is leading the development of the Christchurch 2050 strategy to help the city address these and other challenges. All agencies will need to continue to work together in partnership with the private sector to develop strong connections between urban planning, regeneration and economic development.
Regenerate Christchurch will continue to play its part, led by recently appointed Board Chair, Dr Thérèse Arseneau, who succeeded Sue Sheldon when her fixed term ended in June.
I am looking forward to working with Thérèse and the wider board to not only build on the progress made under Sue’s leadership, but ensure the Christchurch 2050 strategy is supported by Regenerate Christchurch’s unique role in the regeneration ecosystem.
Regenerate Christchurch has released its vision for Cathedral Square, emphasising that a return to its original purpose as a gathering place for local people and visitors must be front and centre.
Chief Executive Ivan Iafeta says while the vision for the physical regeneration of the Square is aspirational in terms of design, the social regeneration of the square is achievable sooner and should be prioritised.
The design for the square includes a series of interconnected spaces suitable for public events, with a combination of paving and green areas and more trees than in the past. There is an option for three enclosed pavilions connected by a lattice-style structure which Ivan says, would provide a year-round undercover area for markets and other activities.
Ivan says the greater regeneration will need to be delivered in stages as funding and other developments allow, but delivering a comprehensive programme of events, activities and festivals will re-establish the square as a gathering place.
“To be regenerated, the square cannot remain symbolic of the city’s loss and instead needs to be a strong symbol of the vibrant future of the centre of our city. The long-term vision will provide the impetus and drive for the public and private sectors to work toward a common goal.
“But it’s not just about new things. It is about people and we need to get on with making the square a place for the people again.”
Regenerate Christchurch’s long-term vision can be viewed at regeneratechristchurch.nz/cathedral-square and the organisation will now work with Christchurch City Council to develop a delivery strategy.
A green spine extending from the city to sea is poised to set Christchurch apart as a place that is prepared to explore new ways of living with nature – from adaptive housing to sustainable urban agriculture.
Walkways and biking tracks, wetland developments and a variety of other public and private land uses are included in a shortlist of potential options for an area of land known as the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor.
Formerly Christchurch’s ‘residential red zone’, the 11-kilometre stretch of land is nearly twice the size of New York’s Central Park and four times the size of London’s Hyde Park.
Regenerate Christchurch is responsible for developing the regeneration plan for the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor and says a mix of naturally-occurring and new activities has potential to attract up to a million unique visitors a year.
A “green spine” will extend along the river, up to 150 metres wide on each side, with large areas of ecological restoration, wetlands and community spaces. Elsewhere, there will be three significant areas suitable for a variety of potential public and private land uses reflecting themes of food and culture, experiencing nature and activity and play.
“These will create opportunities for school children and researchers to learn about the natural environment to better understand the challenges and opportunities within a truly living laboratory,” Regenerate Christchurch Chief Executive Ivan Iafeta says.
Regenerate Christchurch has developed a refined shortlist that will feature in an upcoming public exhibition. Ivan says implementation of the plan is likely to be the beginning of a 30-year intergenerational programme of work.
For the past 14 months, identifying and assessing potential land uses in the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor has been a significant part of Regenerate Christchurch’s work to develop a regeneration plan for the area.
The transformational opportunity it represents, as well as the local and national benefits, cannot be underestimated and it has been critical that we ensure our decision-making is informed, consistent and accountable.
While an independent community needs survey, carried out by Nielsen, identified a strong community interest in the corridor’s water quality, research findings on their own do not provide a comprehensive mechanism for testing all ideas.
Therefore, at Regenerate Christchurch, our assessment of potential land use combinations has included considering how these options might support safe, strong, healthy and connected communities, provide increased recreation and leisure activities, restore native habitat, create sustainable economic activity, attract visitors, provide opportunities to learn from the natural environment and address the challenges of climate change.
We have also assessed the potential land use combinations for their feasibility and how they might provide low and no-cost activities for all ages and abilities, and improve connections between central and east Christchurch.
The Red Zone Futures exhibition, which will run for five weeks from 26 May at 99 Cashel Mall – with parallel mobile and online exhibitions – will demonstrate the transformational opportunities within the river corridor. Opportunities that will deliver significant benefits for us here in Christchurch, as well as people around New Zealand and around the world.
In mid-March, our organisation Regenerate Christchurch published some recently taken drone images of the Bexley Wetland and Southshore Spit on social media, and the photos generated a large amount of positive engagement with our online audiences.
The positive feedback we received – and continue to receive – reflects the importance that the areas of the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor and the Avon Heathcote estuary holds to so many people. This space is a valuable resource for the community, not just from an ecological point of view, but also for its potential to be an incredible place for bold ideas and innovation to be showcased both for Cantabrians and greater New Zealand.
We’re excited about the potential the area has to become a world-leading living laboratory, where we learn, experiment and research, test, and create new ideas and ways of living, such as how we adapt to sea-level rise and climate change.
Meanwhile, on back-to-back weekends in March, the Children’s Day and Polyfest events were held in the former residential red zones on the corner of New Brighton Road and Locksley Avenue. Both days transformed the ‘Regeneration Area’ into a thriving, bustling carnival-like atmosphere as crowds of happy people enjoyed great music, performances, food, activities and games.
These events, and other transitional uses of the 602-hectare Regeneration Area from Barbadoes Street to the Bexley Wetland, provide a glimpse into how the area can provide immense benefit to Christchurch and New Zealand in the future. There are some very exciting times ahead.
Christchurch’s rebuild is an opportunity to transform our city and leave a legacy for future generations, something which requires public and private organisations to partner together. Exploring these new ways of working together has long-lasting, far-reaching benefits for all of us.
I’m really pleased that Regenerate Christchurch has now signed agreements with both the University of Canterbury and Lincoln University. These will enable new and innovative opportunities for research, teaching and learning, particularly around the environmental and social regeneration, and ecology of the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor Regeneration Area – the former red zone.
We’ll share resources and knowledge, and collaborate with two of New Zealand’s most recognised universities to create new learning experiences for local and international students, communities and visitors.
We’d like to establish a world-leading living laboratory, where we learn, experiment and research; testing and creating new ideas and ways of living. It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate how to adapt to the challenges and opportunities presented by natural hazards, climate change and a river’s floodplain.
Long-term, we want to see Christchurch recognised as a leader in developing technology for communities to adapt to climate change, and see an increase in science and technology-based jobs in our city.
These partnerships between Regenerate Christchurch and tertiary providers will provide opportunities for staff and students, such as trialling ideas and projects that could also lead to commercial opportunities, involvement in internships, community engagement, research, and investigating the long-term impact of regeneration.