A Christchurch ecologist says the development of East Christchurch needs to be properly planned for the next 100 years, to accommodate almost certain sea-level rise.
Dr Colin Meurk, a Research Associate with Landcare Research and a leading member of environmental organisations in Christchurch, says the “east has its own stories of patterns, processes, mysteries and futures. Some we can manage; others we should go with the flow”.
“We need to think ahead about building and developing for a century or so, and migrating the ideas and structures, as oceans rise – in an organised and planned way,” he says.
Dr Meurk says an integral part of the story is the Avon-Otakaro corridor - an umbilical cord to the central city.
“Much is lost, but the best way we can honour the enterprise and effort of former residents of the red zone is to encapsulate the history of the district and its connection to the wider region through water, forests and wetland stepping stones, that build on the gardens that were created by the inhabitants going back a thousand years,” he says.
Dr Meurk supports a number of initiatives, some already underway:
· A scaled Eden-style project interpreting the role of water in making Canterbury through interplay of floods, springs, aquifers, alluvium and the restless ocean;
· integrated with a proposed eco-sanctuary (Waitākiri) of ancient creatures and plants that casts us back to Gondwana;
· a Mahinga Kai park reviving the gardens of the millennial Maori;
· safe selected elements of Colonial flowerbeds, shrubberies and orchards;
· ‘Greening the Red Zone’ with bush, fruits and nectar for our wildlife - courtesy of kahikatea, matai and kowhai;
· walking, cycling and boating recreational expectations of a healthy city (like the Christchurch 360 Trail), and ;
· cafeterias, watering holes, places to stay, shops and bustling buses.
“The natural patterns in East Christchurch stem from historical layers of dunes, estuarine marshes - mixing fresh and salt water; pingao, raupo, harakeke; takahe, moa, and weka; restless rivers, swamps, forests and shorelines; kainga and mahinga kai; colonial farming, settlement, exotica and business enterprise,” he says.
“The red zone and redevelopment of the eastern suburbs can reflect this rich mosaic and reveal these stories – each relevant, legitimate dimensions of our diverse City - becoming resilient to shocks,” says Dr Meurk.
“The east will be a stepping stone through time as well as space; there will always be an east, the sun will rise, the waves will lap, the evolving patterns will tell their story, the birds and geckoes will find their patches, there will be business and art and life, but in due course the east may be further west,” he says.
Dr Colin Meurk is an ecologist, Research Associate with Landcare Research and a leading member of many environmental organisations in Christchurch and beyond. He is also a member of Eastern Vision, the organisation that has collaborated with CTV and Rebuild Christchurch on the Eyes East TV series about the recovery of the eastern suburbs. The episode screening on Thursday 22 October is entitled “Making the most of the Natural Environment”.