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Huge response to Avon- Ōtākaro Forest Park vision

Huge response to Avon- Ōtākaro Forest Park vision
23 OCTOBER 2016

In just six weeks, a video outlining the vision of the Avon-Ōtākaro Forest Park for transforming the Red Zone into a public native forest and wetlands has attracted 138,000 views on Facebook and some serious offers of help. These include 1000 plants from Orari Nursery, 1000 student volunteers and an offer from a descendent of John Deans to purchase land for the project.

The low cost, low impact vision would bring our native plants and wildlife into the city, include community parks, walking and cycle tracks, provide a buffer from flooding and clean our air and water among many other benefits and recreational opportunities.

For some, watching the video was emotional. Former Red Zone resident Carey Anne King commented, “Made me cry watching this.... My old home destroyed in the quake was on this land. Three months no power, one year no sewage, neighbours uniting for weeks cooking together every night at one house for survival, the old helping the young. It brings such joy seeing this and feeling so proud of my country and city.”

For others, the video inspired action. Graham Pullman from Orari Nursery near Geraldine says, “When I saw the vision on my Facebook news feed, I immediately wanted to support the concept. I think the vision is extraordinary. But most importantly it’s doable.”

Graham has donated 1000 plants and intends to donate 1000 more in autumn.

“In my view, it’s the best thing that can be done for Christchurch - not only for the environment but for the volunteers who will put hours into making this happen, giving all of Christchurch a sense of ownership.

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“What I like most about the concept is that it provides areas that can be used by many people, for instance the community gardens and the river walks, but most importantly the benefits to the wetlands and the river life that these plantings will have,” Graham says.

The video caught the eye of Student Volunteer Army organisers who contacted the group to offer its army of up to 1000 students to help with the creation of the park. Events on this scale could only happen with a green-light from Regenerate Christchurch, but the group has welcomed this partnership.

Hamish Monro, a UK-based Cantabrian and descendant of John Deans also contacted the group after seeing the video. Hamish, keen to build on his family’s legacy at Riccarton Bush is keen to purchase land to move the project forward. This proposal has opened a conversation about how individuals might be able to contribute to the preservation of the land for conservation as part of a number of potential funding streams for the park.

Munro says “With the chance of private ownership comes ‘ buy in’ to the project, a return for the Crown, and gives people a chance to do something positive for the environment. With suitable covenants in place the sale of parcels of land would produce a return for the Crown and help make the project self-sustaining”

“It is taking otherwise pretty dubious ‘housing’ land and re-creating native, or semi-native, woodland rather than repeat housing which will always be subject to flooding and other risks. There is a need for more forestry around the world, especially in Canterbury where there is a shortfall in native or ‘interesting’ forestry”.

Mark Huxtable of the Avon-Ōtākaro Forest Park project says, “It’s really fantastic to see that so many people are behind the vision. Improving the well-being of our communities and our environment is central to what we are trying to achieve, so the public's support is really important to what we are doing.”

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