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The $800 million-plus cost that has emerged for maintaining the red zone and putting infrastructure in like roading and water management over the next 30 years is mind-boggling.
That figure is an estimate. And history tells us estimates are usually the least you will have to pay.
A reasonable chunk of the red zone was once swamp and the domain of native birds and fauna. A wilderness.
Then Europeans arrived. The land was cleared for farming, dairy mainly, and later developerscapitalisedon the expanding city and began to convert it into housing and suburbs.
That came back to bite on September 4, 2010, and February 22, 2011, when the swamp struck back. Not far below the surface was water, and when the quakes violently shook the land, the water was squeezed upwards in the form of liquefaction – forcing the exodus of thousands of people.
Since then our city leaders and government agencies have been in the process of what to do with the red zone. Millions has been squandered on pointless consultation, hare-brained ideas and potential developments, and on the salaries of those who have been overseeing it all.
And what has progressed from all of this? Not much.
What we need to do with the red zone is allow nature to take its course; allow native bush to regenerate and the birds and other wildlife to boom back in their natural environment.
Put walking and bike trails in, places where people can picnic and structures where they can observe the native birds which since the quakes have returned in great numbers. Even put intarsealedcar parks.
Drop the name red zone – it sounds like a place you should stay away from. Call it something exotic to reflect a wilderness within the city.
In the decades to come, the red zone, or whatever it will be called, will be a point of difference for Christchurch.
And the $800 million-plus cost can be redirected to other projects across the city to ease the burden on ratepayers.