© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

New type of adventure on the cards for Christchurch red zone

Brad Christensen
Surf Park
If approved, the water park will be surrounded by native New Zealand plant life.  Wai Huka o Waitaha

Two local thrill seekers have submitted a plan to put a multi-million dollar whitewater park in the Christchurch red zone.

Ian Fox is a man with a vision.

A vision where Christchurch is recognised as one of New Zealand’s adventure tourism capitals, rather than a meagre gateway to the rest of the South Island.

“I’m just about to turn 50 and I love Christchurch, but let’s face it, it’s f***ing boring,” said Fox.

The whitewater enthusiast and his friend, local surfer Nick Mooney, have submitted a proposal to Regenerate Christchurch that he believes can put us on the map.

He’s hoping their plans for a multi-million dollar water park in the Dallington red zone will get the green light.

Consisting of three parts: A whitewater course for rafters, kayakers, canoeists and “basically anything that floats”, a surf park that generates perfect artificial waves and a wakeboard cable park.

Fox told me the numbers for this project aren’t final but, based on overseas experience, if it’s approved in its entirety they’re looking at a cost of about 60 to 70 million dollars to cover an area of approximately 25 hectares. 

He believes up to half of the overall space would be consumed by native planting, car parks,and amenity buildings.

“It sounds like a lot of money, but if you consider the footy stadium is going to cost 500 million. This could probably just be that project’s overrun,” joked Fox. 

Mooney and Fox would like to see the water park nestled in amongst a serene forest setting, fitting in on the edge of Regenerate Christchurch’s forest and wetland park proposal.

Ideally somewhere near Burwood Park.

They’re optimistic the required funds can be raised through a public/private partnership with a key investor who is in it for the long-haul, with a real community vision.

“It’s crucial to us that they get their money back, we’re looking for a hand-up, not a hand-out,” Fox assured me.

Brad Christensen compares Christchurch's current kayak scene to that the facilities on offer in Auckland.

He explained they want the whitewater park to have sections, of varying gradient in accordance with the level of difficulty.

The surf park would also have different sections in order to give beginners the space they need without getting in the way of advanced riders.

Facilities at this level would foster serious opportunities for growth in these sports, according to Fox.

“I can afford to jump in the car and go to the Hurunui on the weekend, not everyone has that luxury,” he said.

Particularly for younger people, Fox feels this project is a way of “bringing the great outdoors to town for those who might find it hard to get out there otherwise”.

Local surfer Matt Johnston is also on board with the concept.  

He said having access to consistently high quality and local waves, rather than having to make missions up the coast is an attractive prospect for any enthusiast.

“It’d also just increase the chances of being able to take our skills to the next level, having a facility that allows us to train at the same level as some of the world’s best,” said Johnston.

While Fox sees this as a massive opportunity for Christchurch’s tourism industry, he’s aware that if it doesn’t work for the locals, it’s unlikely to work at all.

He believes the facility could offer something for everyone, with beach-type spaces for parents and kids, as well as a large swim lane for open-water swimmers.

“If the people of Christchurch don’t like it, they’re not gonna tell their friends about it and then it falls over,” said Fox.

Although excitement is high, there are still a couple of bridges to cross before the dream becomes a reality.

Mooney and Fox need their concept included in Regenerate Christchurch’s Regeneration Plan, which is still about a year away.

“If that works out the way we want it then the next planning phase could be as short as 18 months,” said Fox.

In the meantime he’s urging the public to get involved with the Regenerate Christchurch plans any way they can.  

“Tell them what you want - take every chance you can to get your ten-cents worth, everything you say counts,” he said.