Section 17: Natural Environment Recovery

Whakaara Taiao

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Toi tū te marae o Tāne; Toi tū te marae o Tangaroa; Toi tū te Iwi.
When the domains of Tāne (land) and Tangaroa (water) are nurtured and sustained, so too will people prosper and flourish.

Greater Christchurch relies on its healthy natural environment which includes the air, coasts, water, land and biodiversity and the ecosystem services they provide. Recovery programmes need to be undertaken and sequenced in ways that do not harm the health and functioning of the natural environment. They should also consider how they can help the environment to adapt to global environmental issues such as climate change, sea level rise and resource scarcity.

Using existing mandates, local authorities are working hard to rebuild and enhance infrastructure and buildings. This work opens up a significant opportunity to: solve discharge issues; design our city structures to adapt to changes in our natural systems; and improve the natural environment. The flood-carrying capacity of rivers and stopbanking is being restored to pre-earthquake levels. Fixing sewerage and storm water systems has reduced discharges of raw sewage and other pollutants into the rivers and the sea. Actions to address land subsidence and silt inundation are improving the water quality and reducing the flood vulnerability of drains, waterways and rivers.

There are opportunities to enhance Ngāi Tahu cultural and environmental values through re-establishing or increasing the extent of indigenous flora and fauna as river banks are rehabilitated, and by creating river corridors, parklands and wetlands in appropriate areas. Biodiversity also benefits from all this work to address environmental degradation caused by the earthquakes.

Many of the recovery activities mentioned in the previous sections can improve the health and resilience of the natural environment so that it is better than it was before the earthquakes. Certain recovery activities and new developments may need to apply for resource consent. This process provides the normal safeguards for the environment as the effects of activities are assessed against existing Resource Management Act plans.

There is a lot more work to be done to restore the natural environment and improve its resilience and sustainable management. At this stage it is not clear whether a specific Recovery Plan is needed or whether the existing tools will be sufficient for this work.

17.1 Natural environment goals

6. Restore the natural environment to support biodiversity and economic prosperity and to reconnect people to the rivers, wetlands and Port Hills - by:

  • 6.1 ensuring recovery activities value, protect and sustainably manage the sources of our water;
  • 6.2 ensuring ecosystems are healthy and functioning;
  • 6.3 improving the quality and function of estuaries, waterways and wetlands to support the unique biodiversity that is endemic to Te Waipounamu;
  • 6.4 providing public access to and opportunities for outdoor recreation, cultural, social and economic activities;
  • 6.5 enhancing air quality through managing recovery activities that impact on air quality, such as heating, transport, demolition and construction; and
  • 6.6 storing, sorting and processing waste in an environmentally safe and effective manner, including minimising and recycling construction and demolition wastes.

17.2 Implementation

Natural Environment Recovery is led by Environment Canterbury (in partnership with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Ngā Papatipu Rūnanga, Christchurch City Council, Selwyn District Council, Waimakariri District Council and CERA).

The Natural Environment Recovery Programme will assess the extent of the damage to the natural environment and identify the best tools to help restore it. As part of this programme, studies are being undertaken to understand the effects of the earthquake on the natural environment and ways to remediate any harm and prevent damage in future.

Assessment will cover the following aspects of the natural environment:

  • air – effects of insulation and heating choices in the residential rebuild, dust from central city and residential demolitions, and infrastructure recovery;
  • biodiversity – the impacts on biodiversity arising from degraded air, land, freshwater and sea, and the changing land use patterns around the main waterways;
  • coasts – coastal water quality and estuarine processes;
  • hazards – new seismic risk profile, susceptibilities to rockfall, landslide and land damage, new flood risks to low-lying land arising from the individual and combined effects of sea level rise, altered river bed levels and intense rainfall events;
  • land – future treatment and uses of land no longer suitable for urban, residential or commercial use;
  • waste – the effective and sustainable management of all solid and liquid waste in order to avoid the contamination of land, surface water and groundwater during the recovery and beyond;
  • water – quality of groundwater and surface water in rivers, streams and wetlands;
  • recreation – safe recreational opportunities in outdoor spaces, parks and waterways by improving the above aspects of the environment; and
  • implementation tools – the best means to achieve the recovery of the natural environment in tandem with social, cultural, economic and built environments.