Monthly Archives: September 2011

5 creative ideas to save Christchurch

1.  5 days paid leave, (or bonus pay), for all Christchurch residents.

Its been a long hard year for people living in Christchurch: the city is physically damaged and the people emotionally drained from a year of shaking and uncertainty.  Put simply, the people there need and deserve a good break.  As the insurance industry delays and reconstruction and planning are pushed further  back the city is also in desperate need of economic stimulus.  I can’t think of a better time for a clever use of tax payer stimulus than now by giving ALL Christchurch residents 3-bonus days of public holiday to be used by the end of the year.  An early Christmas present.   People can take the chance to go for a drive, visit relatives, go out for nice meal, a bike ride, skiing.  Whatever floats their boat.   I haven’t costed it, but it couldn’t cost less than $10 millon and almost all the money would go directly into the Christchurch economy.

2. International Paintball Championships in the Redzone.

What are three of the main things Christchurch needs now?

Money to start rebuilding,

entertainment to keep people there sane, and

international exposure so people and capital return to the city.

In the spirit of this stunning and quite moving youtube video of skaters using the broken streetscapes of Christchurch, I propose that a large-scale reality tv Paint ball championships be run in Christchurch before it opens in 2012.  Paint ball is water based so will dissolve in the rain.  All the dangerous buildings have almost being demolished, the rest of the buildings to go are economic demolitions not structural ones so safety should’t be a concern.  Perhaps we should take all the SAS and special forces forces out of Afghanistan and let them have a Special Olympic style battle to see which is best.  Give them a building each and see who is left after 3 weeks?!

3. Eastern land swap

Eastern parts of Christchurch have been badly damaged by the earthquakes and large areas around the river of it are ‘redzoned’, meaning there are thousands of people who need to sell their houses to the government and move elsewhere.   A great idea that I heard from Christchurch Architect, David Hill, is to swap some of the parks and golf courses in the east with this damaged land.   Its a fantastic interventionist idea, but only works if the government gets active and onto it.  The opportunity is there to create new neighbourhoods of well designed, well serviced, ‘green’ housing that enables people to live in, or close to the existing communities. While also getting some much needed stimulus into the economy and getting the trades and professions going.  All it takes is some politicians with some vision… now where were they?

4. Bikes, Bikes, Bikes.

Not a particularly creative one, but this needs repeating again and again. Bikes are the cheap solution to lots of Christchurch’s future problems. Even with the advantage of a massive capital injection and a fresh start, the reality is that Christchurch is the wrong shape and layout to ever have a comprehensive public transport system.  It can have a handy and modern bus system with clever and well designed tickets to make it easy to use, but is never going to have frequent trips to all parts of the city.  It has grown around the expansiveness of the motorcar and will remain locked to its logic.  Fortunately there is a much better way to get around flat wide cities with grid layouts than the car. Bikes!  They are cheap, they last longer than cars, roads can fit thousands of them, its easier to park them,  they keep people fit, they are cheap and choice!   The rebuild is the perfect time to make the roads bike friendly and provide extensive bike infrastructure around the city. Cheap bikes to hire, bike paths on most roads, bike paths along the rivers, bike stands, places for workshops, safe storage, etc etc.  Weather shouldn’t be a big problem, look at how they do it in Amsterdam and Copenhagen.  10% of one of the stupid holiday highways being built out of Auckland could fund this for decades.  (The image below is Christchurch in 1937!)

5. Move the World Cup Cloud to Christchurch.

1 +1 should equal 2. Over the next 1-5 years Christchurch is going to be in desperate need of high quality temporary structures to house the civic and commercial activities of the city while the rebuild gains momentum.  In about 30 days Auckland will be left with a large unused high quality government owned structure.  Move it to Christchurch. Simple.

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Christchurch, Lewis Mumford and 21st Century Enlightenment.

The video below by Urbanist and Architect Lewis Mumford illustrates some strikingly accurate observations on how we should manage our cities.  The planners and politicians in control of the Christchurch at the moment would do themselves a favour to watch it.

(Hat tip to Freeranger Minna Ninova for the video)

People sometimes ask what Freerange is all about.  What is it?  Why do we do it?  I usual answer with some vague statement about cities, politics, design and the need to think ethically about how to act in this strange world.  The beautiful illustrated video below for the RSA series explains it better than I ever could.  Brilliant stuff.

(Hat tip to freerange Nick Sargent for the suggested viewing)

 

 

 

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Lake Eyre: A Little Trip to a Big Place

When I was told about a temporal sea in the middle of the Australian Outback I was immediately intrigued because it sounded more like a myth than reality.

Apparently – the story goes – every decade or so when drought breaks (see recent Queensland floods) the rain and floodwaters slowly migrate throughout the continent via networks of newly formed rivers, basins and subterranean waterways.  They end up in the country’s lowest point, located in arid South Australia.  Somehow fish get inside this huge body of water.  I’ve even heard some say that there are fish eggs in the desert waiting to hatch upon the water’s return.  With the fish come bird migrations and colonies.  And if it floods enough, the water sustains a brief ecological spurt; flower blooms erupt in the middle of the desert.   All this talk about water and biodiversity in arid Australia was an image I had not associated with the Outback.

And so with my romantic inclinations, I looked into it.

Lake Eyre satellite image

This ‘sea’ is otherwise known as Lake Eyre.  It is as real as it is mythologised, having been portrayed as a site of fascination and fear all throughout the national narrative of Australia.  According to some aboriginal accounts, Lake Eyre is a Kangaroo skin laid out flat.  In other accounts it is the site of death, with the salty remnants of tears shed by the Sky Gods.  For explorer John Edward Eyre it symbolised disillusionment after failing to find the heroic prizes usually associated with territorial expansion – resources, drinking water, power.  He then proceeded to name the lookout point upon which he discovered the Lake, Mount Hopeless.  Prior to that Thomas J. Maslen drew a fictional map, featuring an inland sea in the middle of the Australian continent.  The sea is shown as being connected by a massive river labelled “The Great River Or Desired Blessing”.   He thereby set the agenda for a national ideal, for a reality, which was at that time yet to be explored.  For geologist J W Gregory the Lake was branded as “The Dead Heart of Australia”.  Charles Sturt unsuccessfully carried a nine meter long whaleboat into the Outback, in a failed attempt to discover an inland sea.  Hydrologists lobbied to artificially kick start a permanently flooded Lake Eyre, as a means to irrigate the entire continent.  The stories go on and on…

I had the recent pleasure of visiting Lake Eyre and it’s surrounding satellite towns.  Here are some travel pics:

 

The ochre coloured township of Coober Pedy. Famous for opal mines and landscapes reminiscent of Mars. 70% of the population live underground, presumably to moderate the extreme temperatures experienced there. The topography of the town resembles that of a re appropriated opal mine, along with random mounds of excavated earth scattered all over the place. It is within these mounds that the houses are located. We had an interesting underground experience at a cafe where the owner closed the kitchen upon our arrival and politely showed us to the door because he needed to leave the shop to “buy some milk”.

 

There was a very cool space ship parked outside the local opal shop/town lookout.

More space junk in William Creek. This one is legit though – Stage one R3 Rocket from the 70s. Tangentially it is also near the historical atomic testing sites. Population: 5, or something to that effect. William Creek is one shop/petrol pump/pub/camping grounds. It is located midway along the Oodnadatta Track, which roughly follows the nearby western edge of Lake Eyre North. The track was previously an early explorers path, which followed a network of water bores.

 

Oasis. Big drought break. The desert was surprisingly green.

 

The remains of a Mosque located in Marree. The town has a history of Afghan Cameleers who settled there in the 1870’s. Coincidentally our travel routing plans were affected by lack of accommodation because of the coinciding annual Camel Cup races. Marree is also home to the Lake Eyre Yacht Club, which hosts a regatta every time the Lake is sufficiently flooded. It boasts to be the world’s most exclusive yacht club for that reason. They are currently in dispute with local Aborigines who oppose the practice of sailing on the lake.

 

The main course: The shores of Lake Eyre. 80% full. It’s a very salty lake, not much fun for swimming in especially for those with cuts or scratches. Up close it is shallow and not quite swimmable where we met the shore. It has a very thick mud base which never fully dries out under the salt pans even in the Lakes dried state. By this stage I’m feeling nauseous in our 1970’s colour schemed mini plane. But nevertheless pretty snap-happy on the ol’ camera.

 

A rather disorientating moment that didn’t help with my fragile state of motion sickness and feelings of strange juju.

 

Some salt pans that weren’t submerged by water.

Leaving the Lake. See you again next decade!

 

fin.

 

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