I took an opportunity the other day to wander through the Otakaro Avon River Corridor (residential red zone). I wanted to get a sense of it – where it’s up to and how its looking. Before I note my impressions, here’s the back story.

Stephen and I recently joined the Dallington Residents Association. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages, but just haven’t had the time. With Stephen less involved in hockey, and me travelling and working less, now seemed a good time. So I answered a call for a new DRA secretary. It’s a great little group with some good ideas, but maybe lacking direction and a bit out of touch with the resident population. Dallington has changed massively since the earthquakes. We lost approximately half our residents, and I suspect that a lot of those were older people. Demographically, Dallington is now a young suburb, with almost half of the residents being under 30. That’s in stark contrast to the DRA, where the average age is probably around 60. While the DRA has some great ideas about community events and beautification, I think it has been slow to react to the changes that the earthquakes have caused.

This month Regenerate Christchurch released a discussion document for the various land use options its considering in the area. At our last DRA meeting, I suggested that we could hold a workshop for residents on the options, with the objective of producing a submission from the DRA on our view of the options. The committee agreed, and that workshop is scheduled for 31 October.

So this is why I found myself wandering along the new Otakaro bike trail thinking about regeneration.

And what was my sense? It’s a beautiful place. The river looks as though its well on the way to regeneration all on its own, taking parts of the neighbourhood with it. And that feels right. Maybe for this area, regeneration means letting the river find its place again. Maybe it’s about giving the land a chance to settle, and then we can figure out what bits to give over to the river, and what bits we can use again.

I stopped along my walk to look at the plants and trees that now delineate the house boundaries.

In my logical brain, I look at the land and understand that its an valuable asset. We can’t realise that asset unless we use it for something. But in my heart, I feel sad for the people who had to leave. I know some of them went willingly – they took their money and found more stable ground to rebuild on. But a lot of people left only because they had to. If that was my former home and I was faced with the prospect of it being sold on to new homesteaders, I’d be upset, and maybe angry. It seems too soon. Leave it alone for a while. Give people a decent chance to grieve.

How long does that take? It feels like seven years isn’t enough. It might take 20 years. Or fifty. Can we afford to wait that long? I think we can, out of respect for the people who were moved out.