December 4, 2023

2024 Positive

2024 Positive

Rather than look back at the past year, it is appropriate to look forward past the Christmas celebrations to 2024 positive about the good things that will make the year feel worthwhile.

In these uncertain times, it behoves us to avail ourselves of every opportunity to look forward to the year to come and mark down some of the events that are almost certain to happen and which have the promise of improving the state of the river, if only marginally or peripherally. After all, while we are individually impatient for change, many of the changes that will improve the state of the river will by their very nature have to be incremental, even at their fastest rate.

Here are some positives – big and small – to look forward to in 2024:

2024 positive

The Port Hills, northern (city) side.

Port Hills Plan visible It would be a most positive thing indeed if the CCC Port Hills Plan has seen the light of day during 2024. Perhaps the more likely outcome is that it is drafted and is out for consultation so that all interested parties can be polishing it up before we go off for Christmas 2024. While revegetation is happening now on a relatively small scale due to the efforts of the CCC Regional Parks Rangers and community groups like the Summit Road Society and the Port Hills Trust, a Port Hills Plan should be a springboard to even greater activity and funding focussed on the revegetation of the Port Hills – particularly its gullies on the city-facing slopes – as has been envisaged in previous plans that stretch back in time to well before this century commenced. With the effects of climate change already visible, the time is well past for integrated management of the Port Hills land and the Ōpāwaho/Heathcote River and its tributaries as a means of restoring Te Mana o te Wai.

Springs Health Assessment The Ōpāwaho/Heathcote River is a spring-fed waterway; it relies on springs arising from groundwater to provide the base flow. It follows, therefore, that the health of these springs – both ecological and geological health – is vital to the health of the river itself. Over the summer of 2023/2024 EOS Ecology will be conducting a health assessment of a large spring in the Te Kuru retention basin that feeds the Cashmere Stream. This assessment will not only provide some interesting data to evaluate but will also set the baseline against which future community monitoring of the same spring will be conducted to provide an indication of change over time.

2024 positive

More Community Group action in 2024

Community groups flourishing and proliferating It is not easy to keep track of all the community groups that are active within the catchment of the Ōpāwaho/Heathcote River. The more established ones – Estuary Trust and Summit Road Society for example – keep adding to their list of projects while small groups of like-minded and motivated residents are continually stepping forward to undertake regenerative activity in adjacent reserves and on the riverbanks. In 2024, we know that there will be more groups forming as getting involved in community activity becomes increasingly recognised for the benefits that it accrues not only to the environment but also to the well-being of participants. If you want to start such a group, here is some useful information. If you just want to join a group, look for your nearest one here.

Naming of the river  The signs naming the river are designed and their erection has been costed so we are hopeful that the winter of 2024 will see the river named at each point that it is crossed by a bridge. That will be just the first step in getting greater visibility and mana for the Ōpāwaho/Heathcote River. The next step will be to name the major tributaries of the river so that they too can be raised from the status of ‘drain’. This will continue a process commenced by the cutting-edge six-values approach to waterways that the City Council implemented in the 1980s and continues today. There are opportunities for waterways within the city to be naturalised but although it is transformative, it is also not cheap. While naturalisation occurs when opportunity and funding permit, we can at least identify and name major tributaries where they are visible. Tributaries such as Jacksons Creek, Cashmere Brook, Curlett Stream, Haytons Stream and Paparua Stream deserve to be better recognised by signage. Look forward to this.


Urban Forest Plan will involve a great deal of native planting along the river.

Urban Forest Plan plantings along the river The Urban Forest Plan released by the CCC in 2023 gave promise of a greatly increased tree canopy to provide shade and cooling to the city – its streets, its citizens and the river. The plan envisaged that canopy cover along the river margin will have increased 9% by 2030 and 54% by 2070. It takes time to grow trees to the point that they are large enough plant along the river margins, but we should start to see the beginnings of this increased planting regime before 2024 ends. We will be there to assist with community groups to provide labour and post-planting care!

2024 Positive

Cashmere Valley Dam nearing the end of construction.

Cashmere Dam completion It is just about finished now but by the winter of 2024 we can expect that this final part of the flood-protection systems in the Cashmere Valley will be fully operational. There is the potential for greater sediment capture behind the dam although this will not be visible in the sediment-laden water that will empty from this valley. The nature of loess soils is that once mixed with water the only way of separating the soil is by evaporation! The dam will increase the amount of water stored by this retention system, so flood protection for the lower reaches of the river will be improved, but the corollary to this is that the river will flow high and brown for longer after a rain event as the stored water (with its remaining sediment burden) is released in preparation for the next event.

Portlink Industrial Park Hopefully, 2024 will bring a resolution to this extended issue caused by a developer trying to bend the Resource Management process and the rules in the Christchurch District Plan to his benefit while local residents and the environment suffer the consequences. The most positive resolution would be that operational hours for the container park are limited, the building height restriction is applied to containers, the ‘acoustic-fence’-cum-grafitti-wall is not consented and that all of the landscape area is required to be planted. To understand the background to this issue, read all the Portlink articles in our OHRN News items.

Here’s to a very positive outcome for the river in 2024.