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Giant Eels arrive in the Green Spine

Enviroschool students, collaborators and locals gathered for a celebration picnic on September 20th to coincide with DOC’s 50th Conservation Week. The picnic was to mark one year of the Riverbend Refuge project and new additions to site including giant eel sculptures and creative seating.

The Green Lab, formerly operating as Greening the Rubble, have installed a platform and ‘tree table’ for people stopping by on their walks down the river. Poetry by Teoti Jardine has been inscribed onto tree rounds forming a pathway through establishing riparian plants. One year ago The Green Lab and Avon-Ōtākaro Network started working on the project in response to the unprecedented opportunity to restore native riparian habitat throughout the ‘Green Spine’, a decision which was ratified by MP Megan Woods in August this year.


“Activation of the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor to increase community enjoyment of the wonderful amenity it provides is a key priority for Avon-Ōtākaro Network. This project is a good example of this, it exemplifies what can be achieved through the collaboration of a number of community partners,” says Evan Smith spokesperson for Avon-Ōtākaro Network.

The picnic saw the unveiling of giant painted wooden eels created by students from six Enviroschools under the guidance of local street artist Richard ‘Pops’ Baker. Students painting the eels have gone through the Urban Eel project, a project collaboration between Enviroschools Canterbury and Working Waters Trust. The project helps to connect students to their local environment through a taonga (treasured) species- our beautiful long-fin eel.

“Seeing the tamariki connect to their local environment has been incredible, they have followed the Enviroschools Action learning cycle and are now leading a range of actions from creating habitats for tuna to writing letters to Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash for greater eel protection. The art aspect of this project will be the icing on the cake for some of these empowered students!” said Matthew Stanford from Enviroschools Canterbury.

Eight eel sculptures have been placed in total, with images of riverscapes painted on them.
The participating Enviroschools were Rudolf Steiner, Waitakiri, Isleworth, Burnside Primary, Selwyn House and Our Lady of the Assumption.

“It’s wonderful to see Working Waters Trust supporting a new generation of environmental custodians,” said Greening the Rubble Project Manager, Khye Hitchcock. “The tuna look stunning weaving their way alongside the river and will draw people in. The students are creating a new layer of storytelling to this beautiful place, which has a rich cultural history. We hope they’ll visit with their whānau.”

Riverbend Refuge can be found opposite 309 River Road in Richmond. This project has been supported by the Christchurch City Council and the Rata and Tindall Foundations.


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