Caring for the environment  |  31 Jan 2022

Options for speeding up work to improve the health of Christchurch’s rivers, streams and creeks are being investigated.

“The health of our waterways is a concern for the Mayor and Councillors so they have asked us to provide some advice on what more could be done through the Annual Plan and the Long Term Plan to improve surface water quality,’’ says Council Head of Three Waters Helen Beaumont.

“The Te Wai Ora o Tāne Integrated Water Strategy that the Council adopted in 2019 established the strategic direction for the sustainable long-term management of our water resources.

“Now, to support that strategy, we are developing a Surface Water Implementation Plan that will set out the programme of work required to ensure that we have healthy waterways and freshwater ecosystems.

“Some of the work will involve construction of new infrastructure, such as stormwater retention basins and treatment facilities.

“However, it will also be essential that we invest in initiatives that will raise community awareness and provide education on how to stop contaminants being generated at source, prevent them from entering stormwater, and on how we can all help to improve our waterways,’’ Ms Beaumont says.

The 2021-31 Long Term Plan that was adopted last year included funding for a number of new freshwater quality programmes and projects, including:

  • The acceleration of stormwater treatment and integral flood management works in the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor.
  • The creation of a new healthy waterways facilitator.
  • An erosion and sediment control programme in the Port Hills and Whakaraupo Lyttelton Harbour.

But Ms Beaumont has advised elected members that more work to carry out habitat restoration and reduce the contaminant discharges from existing urban areas will be needed if the trend in degradation of Christchurch’s waterways is to be reversed.

As part of the development of this year’s Annual Plan, her team have advised that more planning is required before confirming additional projects that could be prioritised for funding as part of the next Long Term Plan, if the Council wants to do more to improve surface water quality.

“The Council will need to make choices about when and where it invests,’’ Ms Beaumont says.

“For this annual plan, there is work that is ready to be done in the Nottingham Stream catchment – which contains the second most polluted waterway site in Christchurch - to improve the quality of stormwater discharges into the Huritini Halswell River.’’

The Council is due to adopt its Draft 2022/23 Annual Plan in late February.