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Christchurch is the largest city in Te Wai Pounamu, the South Island of New Zealand, with a metropolitan population of nearly half a million people. It was founded in the 1850s, planted on territory of the Ngāi Tūāhuriri sub-tribe of Ngāi Tāhu, who had long used the district for seasonal mahinga kai, or food and resource management. The city sits at the seaward edge of the Waimakariri river delta, on estuarine sediments that are very unstable during seismic shaking.

Before the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010-12, over 5000 households lived in the Ōtākaro Avon river corridor in the city’s eastern suburbs. The land was badly damaged by liquefaction and lateral spread during the quakes, and became unsuitable for housing. It was deemed to be a ‘residential red zone’ with the Crown buying most of the properties on land that had subsided by up to 1.5 metres.

Iain McGregor & Alden Williams

Red zone timelapse. Video by Iain McGregor & Alden Williams

At 600 hectares, the river corridor is nearly twice the size of Manhattan's Central Park and four times bigger than Christchurch’s own Hagley Park. The Plan sets aside about half the area as a ‘green spine’, allowing for native forest and wetland regeneration, and guaranteeing pubic access to the river. The rest of the corridor is intended for projects that are consistent with the objectives of the Plan, including visitor attractions, food resilience and further ecological restoration.

Waygreen Ave, New Brighton, 2019. Image by Iain McGregor & Alden Williams

The houses have now been demolished and most of the roads closed. To shape future uses of the area, a short-term Crown-city agency, Regenerate Christchurch, developed the Ōtākaro Avon River Regeneration Plan, based on extensive public consultation between 2016 and 2018. The Plan received government approval in 2019, and the Christchurch City Council has the responsibility of implementing it.

Iain McGregor & Alden Williams

Avonside red zone at sunrise. Image by Iain McGregor & Alden Williams

The river corridor will become the responsibility of a co-governance entity between the community and Ngāi Tūāhuriri.


The Greenprint in detail. By Regenerate Christchurch

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