Watch: The debate over Christchurch’s proposed red-zone East Lake

The fight is not over for a flat water facility in Christchurch. More than 11,000 people signed an online petition in support of the lake after it was not included in Regenerate Christchurch’s shortlist of projects for the red zone. Julia Evans reports on how the group behind the planned facility, East Lake Trust, isn’t giving up.
The East Lake Trust is fighting to debunk Regenerate Christchurch’s reasons for excluding the flat water facility from the red zone shortlist in a bid to get it back on the table.

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

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Trust chairman David Goodman made a submission on the shortlist, which excludes the lake, on June 29.

“Regenerate has given quite specific environmental and social reasons for the exclusion of the East Lake that we can directly show are incorrect,” Mr Goodman said.

The submission included independent reports from transport consultants Abley, water resource management consultants Aqualinc Research, surveyors Rawlinsons, engineering company Golder, and landscape architects Rough and Milne.

It was broken down into categories addressing Regenerate’s concerns around water take, stormwater and the mixing of water, severing New Brighton Rd, loss of plant life, ecological systems and landscape, construction and truck movements, as well as the impact on private property owners. The amount of water the lake would use was an issue. But a report from Aqualinc Research said it would only use three per cent of the water available to the city and be maintained by a 40-day turnover cycle.

“While there is a moderate risk of algal blooms with a 40-day turnover, there is in fact a moderate risk for most New Zealand lakes,” Mr Goodman said.

He said the argument about cultural sensitivity over mixing water discharged into Horseshoe Lake was “moot” compared to the current discharge of sewage into the area.

“It has been possible to demonstrate that the required treatment of 35.6ha could be accommodated within the land available,” the Golder report found.

Mr Goodman said excavation of the site would take 18 months, not “several years” as has been claimed.

Transport consultants at Abley said the lake would have an impact on the transport system around New Brighton Rd.

“But it cannot be considered a fatal flaw,” Mr Goodman said.

“Although some travel distances may increase, traffic redistribution can be accommodated on the surrounding roads without significant adverse impacts.”

It also said potential works on New Brighton Rd for the lake would cost about $8 million – but that would be offset by the $6 million upgrade the road needs.

There would be 125,000 truck movements, not 400,000 like Regenerate claimed, he said.

Mr Goodman said the impact on neighbouring properties was not specific to the East Lake either.

“Presumably there will be a considerable amount of excavation required for the creation of wetlands and/or other green spine activities and plans.”

The trust has prepared 15 different technical reports over the past four years, Mr Goodman said. “We didn’t set out to do a complete pre-feasibility. It started in response to objections and problems. What can we do to help, it was more a situation that people would raise issues and support.”

The total amount to be spent on the red zone is about $900 million.

“With a cost of $160 million and benefits of $380 million . . . we will also draw your attention to the relatively low OPEX (operating expense) in running the facility once it is built, calculated at $400,000 to $500,000 per annum,” Mr Goodman said.

On top of that, he said it was too soon to exclude any red zone projects because none were funded. “All projects, whether it be the green spine or proposed wetlands, are at early design stage,” he said.

Sixty-five per cent of submitters in Regenerate’s consultation process supported a lake.

“To resolve the matters in dispute, we propose the appointment of an independent engineer to act as an expert to determine the correct position in relation to the disputed technical issues,” Mr Goodman said.

His submission said the expert’s final determination would be binding, whatever the outcome.

There are currently more than 11,100 signatures on the trust’s online petition. It was also submitted to Regenerate on June 29 with 10,500 signatures.

It remains online to collect further support, Mr Goodman said.

He said the group was also lobbying for support from city councillors, Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Christchurch MPs.

A rally in the central city saw hundreds of people turn out in support of the East Lake, including National MPs Gerry Brownlee and Nicky Wagner.

Regenerate chief executive Ivan Iafeta said between May 26 and June 30 feedback was open on the refined shortlist of land use combinations in the ?t?karo Avon River corridor regeneration area, which it is now considering. “The community expressed a range of views. The petition from the East Lake Trust reflects one view.” A finalised shortlist will be provided to Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration Megan Woods for consideration after the submissions are analysed.