Chrissie Williams leading the Natural Environment Recovery Programme for Environment Canterbury
Helen Beaumont, Natural Environment and Heritage Unit Manager
Styx Living Laboratory Trust, Travis Wetland Trust, Avon-Otakaro Network,
South Brighton Residents Assoc, Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust and
CCC Park Ranger Service
The 2 February each year is World Wetlands Day, marking the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands now 43 years ago.
The wise use of wetlands is defined as "the maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development".
I think everybody who has worked so hard over so many years to create, enhance and manage Travis Wetlands will agree that what's been created more than fulfills the Convention's mission.
As the Patron of Travis Wetlands I feel a real sense of privilege in being invited to speak here to mark World Wetlands Day.
It was only last November that we celebrated the 21st Anniversary of the establishment of the Trust that turned the Travis Swamp as it was known into a potential natural anchor project for the regeneration of the east.
I mention the Trust because it was the work of volunteers from the community working with passionate people in the Council that made this place happen. I hesitate to use the word Council, because that makes it sound separate from the city and yet we are all of the city and serving the city.
This new Council wants us to be enablers, catalysts and sometimes just cheerleaders.
And that's not only because we have our financial challenges – we believe collaboration and co-operation are the basis for sustainable and enduring models of development and decision-making. It is all about partnership – working together.
The earthquakes have of course changed our wetlands. The Estuary is tilted up half a metre to the south and down .2 to .3 of a metre to the north near the mouth of the Avon. There is lateral spread and settling of land close to the rivers.
The heave and elevation of the river and stream beds, coupled with the narrowing of waterways – up to 6m on the Avon – has had an impact too.
There are direct impacts in terms of surface flooding and challenges to stormwater and sewerage networks. Overflows have increased. We have an extensive programme of research into stormwater management to address flooding and improve the quality of discharges. The use of wetlands to assist in this regard is something that has been missing for too long.
That's why I say the earthquakes have also brought opportunities.
Recently our president Colin Meurk wrote in the Press to ask us to imagine this part of Christchurch - the 100 hectares of the Travis Wetlands plus another 50ha of Crown-owned residential red zone leading down to the Avon - as a fenced-off, predator-free, eco-sanctuary, filled with stands of 30m to 40m trees and populated by kiwi, kakapo, saddlebacks, tuatara, jewelled geckos and other New Zealand wildlife.
I have often asked people to think about Christchurch being the home to the largest natural wetlands within a city boundary based on Travis and stretching into the red zone. Think of the eco-tourism potential that could provide, as well as the potential for learning experiences for children, with interpretation centres explaining the history of the wetlands, its native plants and the birdlife it already attracts.
Think of the network of wetlands Styx Mill, Travis, Bexley, Charlesworth, and South Brighton and what that would mean in our city – and the potential to connect them through walkways and cycleways. What an incredible asset that would be.
The project would be a huge visitor attraction for East Christchurch, and so economically valuable. And it would be important to Christchurch's sense of identity, too, so socially valuable.
I would like to close by acknowledging the work of the city's park rangers in committing to regenerating all these wetlands that are so valuable. We are proud of the work you do and we honour you on this World Wetlands Day.