The City Council announced on Thursday that $100 000 will go to fund at least eight Gap Filler or Greening the Rubble projects in earthquake-affected areas of the city in the coming year. These projects are part of the city’s recovering, bringing life and activity to vacant spaces around the city created as a result of the earthquakes. The money will come from the Civic and Community Project portion of the Capital Endowment Fund and had no impact on rates increases.
“Our projects are an important part of this city’s recovery” says Coralie Winn, Gap Filler Co-Creator and the current coordinator of the Gap Filler initiative. “Vacant space is bad news for any city. By activating some of the gaps created by the quakes with temporary projects for public use and benefit, we are engaging and involving the community in their city here and now.”
Gap Filler aims to activate gap sites with all manner of temporary, creative projects and responses. Greening the Rubble focuses on greening gap sites in the form of green space, community gardens, biodiversity and more. Both initiatives work with a wide range of volunteers with varying skills and interests to make their projects happen and have been hugely successful and well-supported by the public since their creation in October 2010 in response to the September 4 quake.
These projects are community focused and widely collaborative. For the first eight months of their existence both initiatives have been predominantly voluntary undertakings. “Funding like this is a huge relief” says Coralie Winn. “We have stretched the little money we had very, very far and will continue to pursue all forms of support - but we (and the council) acknowledge that this exceedingly high level of voluntary participation, due to a desire to help earthquake recovery, is not sustainable in the longer-term. So this funding will help to sustain our volunteer labour force, including the project coordinator roles for each initiative, which has been more than a full-time job. Remaining funding will be put towards project costs.”
Gap Filler feel very strongly that there should be a wide range of activity on these sites, and that their role is to help foster activities that wouldn't happen otherwise.
“The willingness of the council to fund temporary urban regeneration projects like Gap Filler and Greening the Rubble is encouraging,” says Gap Filler Trust Board Chair Ryan Reynolds. "We take it as a clear sign that there’s a desire to encourage experimentation and not just unveil one monolithic grand solution to the rebuild. With smaller-scale temporary projects, the community gets to try out new ideas. Some might disappoint, but a failure on this level costs very little time and money, and can help avoid a much costlier failure on a grand scale. So, in addition to enlivening and enriching the cultural life of the city, these projects are utterly practical."
And interest is flowing in from overseas. One Gap Filler possibility is currently in development with the Architecture department at RMIT (Melbourne), who have proposed to undertake a project to explore on a mini-scale the design principles behind the highly-successful Laneways developments in Melbourne. Through creating a small-scale Gap Filler project, they hope to learn more about the underlying reasons for the Laneways’ appeal, to better implement similar principles in Christchurch on a larger scale.
Gap Filler’s next project is a book exchange and involves members of the public to get it going by bringing along books at the launch event on Sunday, July 17. To find out more about Greening the Rubble see www.greeningtherubble.org.nz.
Interested landowners willing to enable temporary, creative projects to happen on their land are encouraged to get in touch, as are new volunteers. Ideas for projects are also welcomed!