Cohen joins calls to rethink East Lake decision

EXPERIENCED: Olympic gold medal winning rower Nathan Cohen says the East Lake would be a community asset and a better facility than Kerrs Reach for watersports. PHOTO: MARTIN HUNTER

Olympic gold medallist Nathan Cohen has got behind an attempt to keep the proposed international watersports lake in the red zone afloat.

The former New Zealand rower spoke before city councillors last week of the benefits the East Lake would bring to the city, based on his experiences competing overseas at similar venues.

He said it would become a point of connection for the community.

“Sometimes the people on the lake are outnumbered by the people who use the surrounding lake for a whole lot of engaging activities, not just direct watersport use.”

Cohen, a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, spoke as part of the East Lake Trust’s submission on the draft Long Term Plan, alongside chairman David Goodman.

It came after Regenerate Christchurch did not include the proposal in its shortlist of options for the red zone citing environmental reasons.

The trust’s vision would see the $160 million multi-sport lake built out of the Avon River from Kerrs Reach to Horseshoe Lake, which could host international events.

A petition pleading for Regenerate to reconsider has gained more than 4600 signatures.

Cohen likened the East Lake proposal to the Bosbaan Lake, 10min from central Amsterdam, Poznan in Poland, and Dorney Lake in Eaton, where he had trained and competed.

“When you’re out training, there’s plenty of people out for their morning walk or their morning run around the lake – even the likes of rollerblading and all different forms of exercise.”

He said lakes also attracted picnics, socialising, exercise, and hospitality outlets.

Regenerate Christchurch said instead of developing East Lake, the Avon should be upgraded to its pre-quake condition or widened.

It said an in-river lake would be subject to algal blooms, while an out-of-river one would prevent stormwater treatment needed to improve Horseshoe Lake.

It said to keep an out-of-river lake clean would require 43 million litres of water to be extracted from the deep water aquifers daily.

But Mr Goodman said Regenerate had never raised those concerns and they did not align with the trust’s research, which found it would require less than three per cent of the aquifer water.

He said the East Lake would be an economic generator and they would not give up.

Mr Goodman said the trust had requested a meeting with greater Christchurch regeneration minister Megan Woods.

He asked city councillors to show leadership.

“Ask the question why? What happened? This lake was on the books, it was going to make the exhibition for all money and then suddenly it got chopped off.”

Mr Goodman said double Olympic gold medal-winning sculler Mahe Drysdale was keen to talk to city councillors but could not make it down from Cambridge in time.

Drysdale put the trust onto Cohen, he said.

Cohen and double sculls partner Joseph Sullivan won gold at the 2012 London Olympics, and back-to-back gold medals in the double sculls at the 2010 and 2011 World Rowing Championships.


  1. It would be really good to see the Star do an informative article about the reasons why Regenerate Christchurch has ruled it out. The information is all there on RC’s website, available for anyone to view, but a lot of people don’t have the time, and so are relying on the media to curate it for them. In the absence of that happening, we have one very biased group providing a totally misleading, twisted, and frequently just plain wrong opinion.

    Without going back and reading through the documents again, these are some of the issues I remember off the top of my head:
    – The red zone area just below Horseshoe Lake can provide effective and much needed stormwater treatment for a huge catchment of North East Christchurch (Cranford Basin etc). Putting the lake in would stop that from happening (and the documents explain why ELT’s claims they can co-exist are wrong). To find alternative land to provide that treatment would cost $200m+. That’s money you and I would be paying in our rates.
    – The lake itself would cost $200m to build. ELT want public money to build it. That’s money you and I would be paying in our taxes.
    – The lake requires the closure of New Brighton Rd, which is a lifeline route.
    – The lake would also require significant widening of Lake Tce and Horseshoe Lake Rds to provide alternative transport routes, which would require acquisition of private residential property. Has anyone spoken to the residents of these streets about how they’d feel about their quiet residential roads becoming major thoroughfares – and losing their front yards in the process.
    – The lake would increase the risk of lateral spread during another earthquake in nearby properties.
    – The lake would be prone to algal blooms.
    – Building the lake would require 400,000 truck movements – has anyone asked the neighbours how they’d feel about this?

    There are many more reasons given – all logical, all well-researched, all totally reasonable. Don’t let the very cynical lobbying of a group that wants everyone else to pay the price of their sport blind you. Treat it as the spin it is.

  2. Absolutely agree Ashley. There is a a lack of vision here – we are trying to find the best use for the land – not the best use for the most well-resourced lobby group. The feasibility studies, the indicative business case studies – all publicly available – the lake tanked them all. Of course East Lake Trust will tell you those who oppose them ‘hate lakes’, which is patently ridiculous, but what we don’t like is the deception and bully tactics they are using to deceive people about benefits that don’t exist, and support they don’t have. This folly threatens to undermine a very long and thorough research process for the sake of sour grapes. Let’s hear about the aquasports park we can have instead, the amazing benefits of regenerating that area, and the incredible work the Avon Otakaro Network and the Avon Otakaro Forest Park have already done in restoring habitat and wildlife there.