Of Spoilt Brats and Stubborn Parents

By Evan Smith, AvON Spokesperson 

The stoush between Regenerate Christchurch and East Lake Trust over the exclusion of a 2km lake in plans for the red zone’s future has been perceived as a standoff between stubborn parents and spoilt brats.  

But there is a lot at stake: the future of flatwater sports in the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor and the credibility and integrity of the regeneration planning process. 

While previously supporting the East Lake proposal Avon-Ōtākaro Network no longer does so and endorses Regenerate Christchurch’s decision to exclude it.  But we continue to advocate for maximum provision for flatwater sports within the red zone, subject to feasibility.


East Lake Trust's proposal for 2.2km lake off river.

For the past seven years we have promoted the future of the red zone as a multi-purpose river park that meets diverse community needs – including for flatwater sports. Over those years we have collaborated with flatwater sports clubs and Sport Canterbury in running several festivals and regattas.

 We were the first to suggest a 2km off-river lake in Dallington, running from Kerrs Reach up into the Horseshoe Lake red zone, and putting the bend back into the river at Wainoni to accommodate this (as the schematic posted on EVO::SPACE in 2014 shows).

We were aware of some of the disadvantages of this arrangement – the poor orientation to the prevailing wind and the severing of New Brighton Road, a major arterial linking the coast with the city.
We explored options for bridging the lake but the span required was prohibitive.  But we pursued the idea of the off-river lake, even for a period attending East Lake Trust meetings as a community observer.  

However, we also came to understand the significance of Horseshoe Lake / Waikākāriki  in providing drainage for a significant area of northwest Christchurch, and the enormous value of the Horseshoe Lake red zone to intercept that storm water, pass it through wetlands and clean it before discharging into Horseshoe Lake.

If we are serious about cleaning up the river it seemed to us we had to prioritise Horseshoe Lake red zone for this purpose, so we weren’t surprised when Regenerate Christchurch came to the same conclusion.  Also, for those of us keen to see regeneration of the east, slapping a wall of water across a primary access route from the city to the coast represents a giant judder bar in the way.

The business case for a 2km lake that meets international rowing standards is very weak. Even local rowing clubs concede that opportunities for East Lake to attract international-level competition are sparse and would take value from other South Island facilities – there is no net gain to the South Island.  On the other hand, a 1km course, which could be in-river, meets the needs of all other flatwater codes.  

There are other options to meet the needs of flatwater sports in the OARC: all have advantages and disadvantages. These options can’t meet all needs, but they can meet many.  

There is no doubt that current provision for flatwater sports on the Avon is inadequate and needs huge improvement.  Working out the best way to achieve this requires all parties to have a reasoned discussion about the true needs for all codes. It also requires clear articulation of the constraints - economic, environmental, cultural, and social - to reach consensus on the best solution.

However, such a rational discussion requires a willingness by all parties to jointly seek a resolution that is a win-win for flatwater sports and for the integrity of the regeneration planning process.  

Otherwise, single-minded pursuit of an all-or-nothing option will be at the expense of flatwater sports and regeneration of the east. Christchurch will be just another dysfunctional family more interested in making a scene than any sense.