AVON: A riverside park with cycleways, paved areas and cafes will be developed.
Tens of millions of dollars are about to be spent on a central Christchurch facelift for the Avon River, with even more significant work possible downstream.
Rejuvenating the river's banks through the future central business district is top priority of the projects unveiled this week in the recovery blueprint.
Details are hard to come by, with vague talk of the creation of new islands in the Avon and of engineering efforts to widen the river and straighten its course in some places.
While the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) blueprint says the city council and Environment Canterbury will be important partners in the work, neither council knew much about the project or their role in it this week.
The CCDU alluded to a special initiative for the Avon somewhere in the eastern suburbs, but the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) stymied efforts to find out more.
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said people could expect to see a lot of activity over the next few months.
"We want to see the fundamentals of that river park in place as quickly as possible because it will drive a lot of development around the edges of it."
He said river heights had changed as a result of the quakes and there were hydrology issues to be worked out, but the city council was already looking at options without comprising the "meandering quality" of the river.
CCDU director Warwick Isaacs said the "main area to get on with" would be between Tiffanys Restaurant and Armagh St.
"By redeveloping that the [retail and commercial] community can see what it is going to be like, which will help them get on with their redevelopment," he said.
CCDU manager of design and planning Rod Marler told The Press the river initiatives had been taken up from the council's draft central-city plan.
"There was enormous support from the Share An Idea programme. We believe it is really an opportunity to make something of what is Christchurch's most significant natural asset and of what defines Christchurch as a city."
The quakes had given the city a chance to renew its relationship with the river and create a 30-metre setback for all buildings, he said.
"We can incorporate opportunities on the right-hand side in terms of . . . pathways, terracing, more vegetation, so effectively it will be central Christchurch's waterfront," he said.
He said the cycleway-walkway could ultimately extend along the rest of the Avon to the sea - an idea that more than 18,000 residents have supported in a petition."On the left-hand side we believe there's a chance to treat it in a softer way, with more planting, natives, cycleways, walkways. Existing planting can be supplemented with more natives."
Marler said there were no plans to alter the course of the river within the new city centre. However, Boffa Miskell Christchurch director Don Miskell was looking at "the creation of a new asset further east" that "would be able to serve a dual purpose, to manage flood risk and water-level movements".
The Press approached Miskell, who has led the design side of the blueprint, for details and instead received a call from Cera asking what we wanted to know.
An interview was set up but then quickly cancelled, with a spokesman saying there was "no-one from Cera, including Don, who can comment on any plans for the river beyond the Christchurch central recovery plan at this stage".