Can Christchurch Shift From Red Zone to Green Zone?
Christchurch is the second biggest city in New Zealand and a central destination for millions of tourists that visit the South Island every year.
In the months following the disaster that destroyed the entire city centre (more than 50% of the buildings have been demolished and others are still abandoned), the citizens of Christchurch faced an unusual challenge: how to rebuild a city in the 21st century and bring it back to life? A very careful and considered approach is needed in such uncommonsituation and there's not a lot of room for mistakes.
The disaster motivated the City Council to involve the communities affected by the disasters in the redesign of their city, and a vast process of citizen participation and community consultation began.
Many creative and bold initiatives have sinceemerged from the city's ruins and started to fill the empty spaces. You might have heard of the'GapFiller' group or 'Greening the Rubble', community organizations that embraced the concept of the transitional city by creating temporary 'pop-up' projects in vacant spaces.These new ideas have challenged the existing system and decision-makers and gained supportthrough all levels of society in Christchurch.
However, lack of clear policy and power strugglesbetween the government and the municipality left the city in a very temporary position. A lot of ideas and initiatives are still fighting to get recognition and others are relying on crowd funding to survive.
I visited Christchurch several times in the last few months and have been inspired by its unique post-disaster process. I am here to bring you the stories behind the brave people that are not just trying to rebuild their city, but also trying to inject it with a new sense of vitalityand make it better.
But the story doesn't simply end there.
Standing in front of abandoned land in the middle of a sprawled out residential zone, Evan came up with the idea to return the land to its original use and create an ecological park with and for the local community. The park will restore the native flora and fauna of the South Island of New Zealand and will include food gardens along with sport and leisure facilities.
Beyond the visual green, the park will also help control and collect storm water in a chain of lakes in addition to fixing the underground infrastructure to prevent water and soil pollution in the future.
In order to bring this idea to life, Evan formed the Avon-Ōtakaro Network, a series of partnerships with several community development originations. The plan had been considered as part of the city’s '3 Year Recovery Plan'*, but has been put on hold by the Government of New Zealand and the future of the Project remains unknown.
"The addition of a river park along the lower Avon corridor to the diverse parks and open spaces Christchurch has to offer would enrich our experiences of nature, add to community engagement with nature, build social capital and protect ecosystems and the services they provide" Christchurch City 3 Year Plan 2013–2016 (draft)
I the meantime, the houses in the red zone are being demolished one by one, and herbicides arebeing used to control the vegetation, leaving the area empty and grey.
The government of New Zealand is consideringseveral options for the future of the Avon river red zone. Currently there's a tendency to rezone part of it back to residential purposes despite the danger of an unstable ground and future earthquakes..
Does a residential zone have to be more valuable financially than a park? Several cities in the worldhave already proved otherwise (New York central park as a classic example). And what about thevalues and benefits in such a project like the Avon-Ōtakaro? I guess the first big challenge Christchurch is facing today is creating a long term vision that doesn't lean on rickety foundations,especially where the ground is shaking.
For more information and support visit the project website at http://www.avonotakaronetwork.co.nz/
From red zone to green zone
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