Red zone aquasports idea criticised

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Close neighbours of the proposed aquasports park on red-zoned land in Kaiapoi, Graeme and Maree Hazeldine, left, with Michelle MacWilliam, centre, and Heather and Warren May, are opposed to the proposal. Photo: Shelley Topp
Close neighbours of the proposed aquasports park on red-zoned land in Kaiapoi, Graeme and Maree Hazeldine, left, with Michelle MacWilliam, centre, and Heather and Warren May, are opposed to the proposal. Photo: Shelley Topp

Whitewater enthusiasts proposing to develop a world-class aquasports park on red-zoned land in Kaiapoi faced a grilling at a public meeting last Sunday.

The meeting, at Kaiapoi’s Port And Eagle Brewpub, was held to launch a fundraising drive to raise $248,000 as “pre-feasibility funding” for the project.

The enthusiasts have established the WHoW Charitable Trust to develop the project and a Givealittle page to help raise funds for the feasibility assessment.

Trust members say the park will be a place where people of all ages and abilities, including elite athletes, can experience outdoor aquatic sports and festivals in a safe, controlled environment.

Trust spokesman Scott Kotoul opened the meeting, saying he was proud of the proposal which presented “an amazing opportunity” to showcase Kaiapoi, his former hometown.

“How awesome would it be to have this in our backyard?”

However, neighbours of the proposed aquasports park say the peace and tranquility of their neighbourhood will be destroyed and their properties devalued if the project proceeds.

They doubt that the red-zoned land earmarked for the park is stable enough for such a project. They also have concerns about where the artesian water for the project is coming from and the possibility of flooding if the facility was damaged in an earthquake.

“Our neighbourhood is totally against this,” Michelle MacWilliam says. “It has a long way to go, but we have to speak out about our concerns now.”

The trustees previously investigated a potential site in the Christchurch residential red zone for their project but were persuaded by Enterprise North Canterbury (ENC) to consider Kaiapoi instead.

The trustees say on their Givealittle page that the “Waimakariri District Council and Enterprise North Canterbury have indicated their support of the project concept and future funding, conditional on the outcome of a pre-feasibility study.”

Waimakariri District Councillor John Meyer, who is not standing for re-election in October, told the meeting the council had been supportive of the proposal, but had not contributed any money and would not contribute any in the future.

“We don’t have the money for a project like this,” he says.

ENC’s business support manager, Miles Dalton, confirmed that position. “The Waimakariri District Council has said that at no point will they put any money into this project.”

However, the ongoing contribution of staff time from the council and the $30,000 in conditional funding from ENC reinforced the commitment already shown.

WHoW Charitable Trust chairman Tony Joseph said: “It (the aquasports park) needs to be commercially viable and sustainable to provide the social outcomes giving hope to future generations.”

The trust is immediately focused on raising the $125,000 needed to commission the work that will form the pre-feasibility report, and to assess whether the project is viable to go to a full feasibility and business-case stage.

It will provide details on how many visitors will attend, how much they will pay and what size and scale the park needed to be. This would provide an indicative cost for the facility.

The trust hopes the aquasports park could be opened by the summer of 2023, just before the Paris 2024 Olympic games.

So far, it has raised over $9200 toward the study.