Te Ara Otakaro Avon River Trail, part of Christchurch’s recovery

It is 10 years since the Christchurch earthquake that devastated
the city centre and cost 185 lives

12.51pm,  22nd February 2021, in remembrance

At 4.35am on 4th September 2010 a magnitude 7.1 earthquake was recorded at  Darfield, 40km west of Christchurch.  No deaths occurred that were directly related to the quake,  there being few houses of unreinforced construction in the area, and at that time of the day few people were out and about.

However, just a few months later at 12.51pm on 22nd February 2011, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit Christchurch city.  The earthquake was centred only 6.7km from the city centre and at a depth of only 5km.  The intense shaking resulted in the destruction of many residences and  inner city buildings.  In the ten years since, the city has been in recovery mode.


Te Ara Otakaro Avon Trail (yellow line) and residential red zones (shaded purple), click to enlarge

Though the Christchurch Recovery Plan is in no way complete, one of the innovations is the Te Ara Otakaro Avon  RiverTrail , following the Avon River from the seaside suburb of New Brighton into Christchurch city centre. The trail passes through a green corridor, now a residential red zone where homes were demolished and removed because the land was so badly earthquake-damaged by the February earthquake. The land cannot be re-built on.

We walked this 12km trail on a Saturday morning when the Avon River corridor was buzzing with walkers, runners, cyclists, rowers and kayakers.  We started in New Brighton. (Map source: riverside information board)


Birdlife and recreational use of the Avon River in New Brighton


Residential red zone both sides of the river


On the trail beside the Avon

This is the transformed green corridor (residential red zone), where street lights, power poles, road names, unmaintained roads and remnants of household gardens remain, but eerily, the houses are gone.


Trees and grass replace residential communities


Rowing Club buildings at Kerr’s Reach


Kayakers in training


Avonside Drive

This photo (above) on a riverside information board tells the story of John Taylor. This Avonside area of the red zone was once a thriving community of 1300 people. They were  forced to leave after their earthquake-damaged homes were set for demolition. But a few, including John Taylor, fought to stay. He remained living in his house (lower left in the photo) until his death in 2017.  The house has now been removed. His wish for the area to become a ‘riverway parkland’ is being realised.


Medway Bridge

Formerly an important pedestrian access across the river, the Medway Bridge was badly damaged in the September 2010 earthquake.  It was subsequently cut into three pieces and stored, but due to public pressure one piece of the bridge was brought back to the area as a commemorative structure.


Medway Bridge over the Avon River

The twisted bridge was still in place (though not in use) when I photographed it in May 2012.


Concept plan for new Medway Bridge

Source: https://ccc.govt.nz/the-council/consultations-and-submissions/haveyoursay/show/306


Still passing through the red zone close to the city centre


Avon River and Margaret Mahy Playground

At the city end of the trail is the Margaret Mahy Playground, another post-earthquake innovation. Completed in 2015, it is said to be the largest playground in the Southern Hemisphere and is much loved by the children of Christchurch.


Avon River

The meandering Avon River is an iconic part of Christchurch scenery, and a great centrepiece for the Te Ara Otakaro Avon  River Trail.

2 thoughts on “Te Ara Otakaro Avon River Trail, part of Christchurch’s recovery

  1. As an ex-pat living in Sweden for the past 30 years to see these wonderful photos reminds me of the days I studied at uni in Christchurch and the beauty of the city. I was in the city in December following the earthquakes and was stunned, saddened and overcome by the destruction and the ‘atmosphere’ of the city in ruins. I have many many friends with families who were severely affected by the disaster, some leaving the city due to house damage etc but more so due to the psychological effects on the family and friends. However on every return since then I have seen how the city is making an amazing recovery…your wonderful photos depict that so thank you for that.
    Kind regards
    Steve Clark

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment Steve. It is nice that you still reflect on your time living in Christchurch with such fondness. There are inevitable controversies about how the rebuild of the city is going, but I think the city is pushing on and my feeling is that most people living here now are very happy with developments, especially the open green spaces that are now a feature of city planning more than ever. There are some large projects, like the Te Pae Convention Centre in the Square, which are still unfinished. But they will be ready for your next visit to NZ, whenever that may be!! Annette


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