25 Sep 2020

Red-zone land gifted to council: 'We've got lots of ideas'

8:51 pm on 25 September 2020

Some of Christchurch's earthquake damaged red-zone land is another step closer to having some long-term decisions made about its future.

Christchurch Red Zone

Council ownership of red-zone land will provide residents with some certainty, one woman says. Photo: Supplied / Chistchurch Dilemmas

Today the Minister of Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Megan Woods, formally handed over ownership of 70 hectares of land to the Christchurch City Council.

The land gifted to the council is in the coastal suburbs of Southshore, South Brighton and Brooklands, where residents have been waiting almost a decade to find out what the future holds for their area.

Southshore Residents Association member Denise George said it's been a long wait but hopefully now the residents can have some certainty about what will happen with the land.

"We've got lots of ideas and now we'll be able for certain to be able to say we can perhaps start planning for the future," George said. "We had a survey six or seven years ago of what was wanted from the red zone, and we're going to build that up again now and conduct an updated survey and see what new residents want."

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said up until now the council hasn't been able to make decisions about what happens in the red zone, as it wasn't its land.

She said questions like whether there could be some temporary housing in the areas, or if services would remain for residents who turned down the government buy-out, are yet to be decided on.

She said the council can now start discussions with the areas' residents and others, and she'd like to see the land to be governed in a new way.

"What I'm thinking about is co-governance which actually brings the council to the table with mana whenua and with the community so that it isn't actually governed by an organisational structure, Christchurch City Council, but actually the governance sits with the people."

Dalziel said the ownership of the land will bring some costs for the council, as it will need to look into issues around stormwater management and coastal erosion.

Deciding on use of 'taonga'

Minister Woods said it was an important milestone in terms of the city being returned to local leadership.

"The expectation for me is that the people of Christchurch will make decisions about how this land will be used. It is the time for the community to come to the fore. Over the last decade we've heard so many ideas, and people's hopes and dreams for what is such a taonga for our city now, and how that could be used."

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Megan Woods, left, and Lianne Dalziel Photo: RNZ

Also handed over to the Christchurch City Council today was the former home of renowned artist Bill Sutton, which sits in Richmond - another suburb with red-zoned land.

Sutton died in 2000, but the property's owner at the time of the earthquakes, Neil Roberts, had a covenant placed to protect the home, and it was purchased as part of the red-zone buy-outs.

Dame Ann Hercus, who is on the Sutton Heritage House and Garden Charitable Trust, said Sutton was one of New Zealand's finest landscape painters, and arguably Christchurch's best artist.

She said everywhere around the house, which was designed by sculptor Tom Taylor, there are stories of the past, including the leather Edwardian chair which many judges sat in to have their portraits painted, the lush garden which Bill Sutton planted, and his paintings which grace the walls.

Dame Ann Hercus, who is on the Sutton Heritage House and Garden Charitable Trust

Dame Ann Hercus in the garden of the home once owned by prominent Christchurch artist Bill Sutton. Photo: RNZ / Rachel Graham

Hercus said the building will be used as a community space with lectures and functions, when its not in use as an artists' residence.

"For several months of the year it's going to be home to artists in residence who are picked by the Trust and brought in for periods of a month or two, or three - a max of three, and who live in the house and paint in the house. We've talked to a budding artist, or established artists for that matter, who say it would be a dream come true to paint here, because the magic is still here."

The home is expected to be open to the public by the end of the year.

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