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.