The Press and Stuff have launched a campaign for Christchurch to become a National Park City and the Ōpāwaho Heathcote River Network supports that objective, with a caveat. Here’s why.
The working definition of a National Park City is
“…a place, a vision and a community. It is a city that is cared for through both formal and informal means to enhance its living landscape. A defining feature is the widespread and significant commitment of residents, visitors and decision-makers to act so people, culture and natural processes provide a foundation for better life.”
As the National Park City literature states,
“…becoming a National Park City is not an award. It is the beginning of a journey to improve life in the city.”
Currently, only London holds National Park City status although many other cities worldwide are working towards it including Adelaide, Glasgow and Galway (Ireland).
To gain the status of National Park City, Christchurch will need to complete a detailed application that requires the city as a whole to work together for better:
- Lives, health and well-being
- Wildlife, trees and flowers
- Places, habitats, air, water, sea and land
- Time outdoors, culture art, playing, walking, cycling and eating
- Locally grown food and responsible consumption
- Decisions, sharing, learning and working together
- Relationships with nature and with each other
You can hear many of these objectives echoed in some of the outcomes of the recently established Community Waterways Partnership, particularly in these:
- Establish a strong collaborative partnership between community groups, businesses, researchers, and local, regional and central government;
- Advocate for incentives that enable community implementation of positive stormwater, habitat and water conservation actions and solutions.
- Establish and facilitate a network of water care champions and kaitiaki
You can hear many of the National Park City requirements echoed in the vision of OHRN for
“an ecologically healthy river that people take pride in, care for and enjoy”
and in the purposes of OHRN to
“be a voice for the Ōpāwaho Heathcote River, advocating on its behalf to promote the regeneration of the health and Mauri of the awa and to connect with and support communities within the river catchment.”
It will not be an easy matter to convince the reviewing panel that the city as a whole is committed to achieving the National Park City goals, but just the endeavour of doing so is certain to harness many energies within the city that will have positive outcomes for the city environment. Our caveat, however, is that the endeavour to be a National Park City must add to the resources and enthusiasm available to empower the restoration of the Ōpāwaho Heathcote River, not reduce them. Further, we would wish to see equal recognition of and attention to the compromised condition of all the City’s urban rivers – Otakaro-Avon, Ōpāwaho-Heathcote, Styx, Otukaikino, and Halswell.
In that context, the journey for Christchurch to become a National Park City will be mirrored by the journey that the Ōpāwaho Heathcote River will take in moving from its current degraded state to being “an ecologically healthy river that people take pride in, care for and enjoy”.
So the Ōpāwaho Heathcote River Network supports Christchurch seeking to become a National Park City. It won’t be easy, but it will be an important and necessary journey for the city and all Christchurch’s waterways in the age of climate change.