Project type: Central City Promenade & Te Papa Ōtākaro / Avon River Precinct

Project elements: Shared pathsShared zones, Signalised crossings

Project owner: Otakaro Limited (In association with Christchurch City Council and Matapopore Charitable Trust)

Project summary

The earthquake series of 2010 and 2011 caused extensive damage to the Central City with many buildings destroyed or requiring demolition due to significant damage.  As part of the recovery, residents and communities were asked to share their ideas on the redevelopment of the Central City.  The process highlighted the importance of the Ōtākaro/Avon River to the people of Christchurch and the desire for a more compact city that was greener and easier to get around. 

The Avon River Precinct / Te Papa Ōtākaro was the first of seventeen anchor projects in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan to be taken through design and construction.  The project included repurposing the river frontage, to create a promenade with limited vehicle access, public open space at Rauora Park, and the Margaret Mahy Family Playground.

The Avon River Precinct / Te Papa Ōtākaro(external link)

Project background and desired outcomes

The City Promenade along the Ōtākaro/Avon River (opened November 2018) extends for three kilometres from Christchurch Hospital to Fitzgerald Avenue.

Identified in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan (2012), the Avon River Precinct is designed to be a key element of the city’s distinctive urban form.  The Precinct operates as a shared zone where people walking and cycling are prioritised, and vehicle traffic is slowed to a maximum of 10 km/h.  

Shared zones

High quality materials have been used, with raingardens, planting, street furniture, and artwork.  All designed to make the space an attractive place to spend time and travel through.   

The design of the Precinct was informed by:

  • ‘Share an Idea’ public consultation process (2011), which highlighted the importance of the Ōtākaro/Avon River to the people of Christchurch. 
  • Christchurch City Council (CCC) and Matapopore Charitable Trust(external link)
  • The Grand Narrative documents that set out the Ngāi Tahu values, customs and traditions relevant to the Ōtākaro/Avon River Precinct area
map showing shared path around avon river

The City Promenade along the Ōtākaro/Avon River (courtesy of Ōtākaro Ltd)

In the sections from Lichfield Street to Armagh Street the full width of the shared area is paved.  Outside of this area the path where vehicles travel is asphalt (although the whole space is ‘at grade’ - there is no curb delineation or vertical change). The western side of the river is more of a green space with walking and cycling paths including a wide shared path on Cambridge Terrace from Armagh Street to Lichfield Street.


Challenges and solutions

How to create buy-in from Central City stakeholders (businesses) to change the layout and operation of a key hospitality location on Oxford Terrace in Central City after just experiencing earthquake associated changes.

Through the Share an Idea conversation with the community, many people had suggested that Christchurch should be a green city, with a vibrancy, inclusive with good access. 

Understanding the why and the reasons behind projects gave the project team confidence to proceed with the scheme.

  • How to create buy in from concerned businesses that fronted The Promenade when there were few examples locally. Stakeholders had more confidence in the plans after seeing examples from Auckland’s shared space projects that had just been completed, rather than being convinced by overseas examples. 
  • How to maintain all the elements to a high standard to keep the space looking attractive. The project used high-quality paving and surfacing, which (with low traffic volumes) will result in reduced maintenance of these elements.  The soft landscaping needs more intensive maintenance and it is important to understand the costs to maintain the soft landscaping elements of the streetscape.  The challenge now is to maintain the materials and quality of the space – Corridor Access for services/utilities/building development needs to ensure protection and reinstatement of materials as specified.  Otherwise the huge public investment in the Precinct will slowly be degraded.
  • How to allow for slow cycling within the shared space while encouraging people riding a bicycle or scooter at faster speeds to use the route on the opposite side of the river.  Signage was used to encourage faster through riders to use the route on the opposite bank.
  • How people walking, cycling or scooting cross streets.  There may be an expectation of priority along the shared space but this changes when crossing traffic routes and the shared space has to give-way.  Traffic signals have been used, but the slow speed of the main routes and the traffic signal sequencing with the one-way distributor streets means that many people cross without the use of the lights in between gaps in traffic.
  • How to get users to understand that parking wasn’t permitted without lots of signage within the streetscape. Parking occurred on the section outside The Terraces development which affected the operation of the space.  The Council parking team took a pragmatic approach to informing users not to park there before using an enforcement approach.

Successes and learnings

  • A strong partnership between Ōtākaro Limited, Christchurch City Council and Matapopore Charitable Trust to deliver a shared vision for the corridor.
  • Clear project governance assisted with the planning and delivery of the project. 
  • A cross-disciplinary team to create the concept and deliver the infrastructure with strong urban design and landscape architecture skills.  The overall high-quality urban design in the space means that people use the space more respectfully and removes the sense of entitlement by people who travel at a faster pace (vehicle drivers, cyclists and scooters).
  • That an area plan for walking and cycling was developed and that the project team worked to the plan even when there was lack of support for parts of the plan.  It was deemed that if one part of the network was not delivered the rest of the network would fail to work as a whole. 
  • To consider the whole of life cost.  Whilst some materials maybe more expensive, having quality implementation and finish would reduce the overall cost of maintaining the hard spaces.
  • One lesson for future projects could be that the cost of maintaining landscaping in high amenity areas is passed onto or shared with a Business Association given the benefit that is delivered for businesses in these areas. 
  • Having imagery of the final ‘look’ would have helped during consultation rather than just the booklets showing the existing situation and plans of the changes.  Not everybody can read plans and so visualisations would have helped.
  • Ongoing consultation through the construction process really helped with the relationship with the Business Owners.  Whilst they may have been unhappy during construction, they had a contact they could liaise with. 
  • The continuity of the shared space network results in a connected network that is becoming simpler and easier for people to use. 
  • Changing sections of the promenade to one-way for motorised vehicles supported the low volume traffic environment and prioritised the place function and the pedestrians using the space. 
  • Having 10 km/h shared spaces meeting 30 km/h streets has resulted in better safety outcomes than meeting 50 km/h streets.  There are no shared spaces that join with 50km/h streets.
  • The traffic resolutions that gave effect to the shared space are set out in the Traffic and Parking Bylaw 2017.  Having Council pass this bylaw has eased the process for the implementation of shared zones. 
  • Cycling is now permitted on Cashel Mall that connects with The Promenade, so these spaces now have the same rules making it a more self-explaining network of streets in the central city.
aerial view of the promenade showing maori motif tiles

Ngā Whāriki Manaaki(external link) (woven mats of welcome) have been installed along the river (Photo Ōtākaro Ltd)