Concerns walking and cycle trail would harm birdlife

Kit Doudney. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Kit Doudney. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Birdlife will be harmed if a walking and cycle trail is built along the edge of a Christchurch estuary, conservation groups say.

The Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust and Redcliffs Residents Association are opposing the Christchurch City Council proposal to extend the '360' walking and cycle trail along the estuary edge beside the Bromley oxidation ponds.

Now the city council may consider options for an alternative route.

Both groups have raised their concerns with the Linwood-Central-Heathcote Community Board.

Estuary trust chairman Kit Doudney said the estuary is home to about 100 bird species and has recently been made part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.

This means migratory birds that use the estuary, such as the bar-tailed godwit, are protected.

But Mr Doudney said constructing the proposed pathway will put godwits and other bird species in jeopardy.

Said Mr Doudney: “The problem with the pathway incurring into a wildlife refuge is that the wildlife suffers from incursion of humans and often their companion animals, such as dogs and on occasions, in this case, horses, on the estuary bed.

“We absolutely welcome the idea of walking and cycling paths - it’s just that this is the wrong area to put it,” he said.

Said Redcliffs Residents Association secretary Pat McIntosh: “It would be a very nice facility for people to be able to walk around the estuary edge, but unfortunately it’s a nature reserve and it’s incredibly important for the wildlife at the estuary that they actually have some space where they’re understood.”

A motion passed at the association’s meeting this month, and emailed to the Linwood-Central-Heathcote Community Board, said the proposed pathway “is in breach of local, national and international protections".

"This area - the oxidation ponds, Linwood paddocks, Sandy Point and the adjacent shoreline - is a crucial refuge for a large variety of birds, including endangered migratory birds and rare New Zealand species," the motion said.

"It is the last bastion of estuary edge that does not allow easy access by humans and dogs, and the only remaining mainly undisturbed area for waterfowl roosting in the estuary."

Said city council head of parks Andrew Rutledge: "An Ecological Impact Assessment is under way to report on how the pathway would impact on the ecological values of the site (primarily birdlife and lizards) and what the overall impacts would be if a range of potential mitigation measures were put in place.

"Following further investigations and cost estimates, the council may be asked to consider options for the pathway, including a potential alternative route and whether to put the proposal forward for public consultation.

"Because the details of the pathway haven’t been decided, the construction costs are not yet known,” he said.

Linwood-Central-Heathcote Community Board member Tim Lindley, who is a member of the estuary trust, did not speak for the whole board but said the pathway should not go-ahead close to the estuary.

Instead, he said there are grass areas further away, which would be more suitable.

He said he hopes the board will discuss the community’s concerns about the proposal this year and decide on the next step.