'Re-wilding' our cities' lost waterways


The announcement of the upcoming symposium on Perth's 'lost lakes' - 'a 200 year history of infill, paving, draining, damming, over-building, covering and erasure', set my mind whirring. It made me think of the lost lagoons of my home-town, Palmerston North - once the food-baskets of Rangitane, and of course the buried streams of Christchurch, which reasserted themselves in the Canterbury earthquakes, destabilising the ground they had been buried under, with tragic consequences.

And it got me thinking. Given that Australia and New Zealand have so much shared history - one of building our towns and cities over wetlands, lakes, lagoons and streams - wouldn't it be amazing to hold a Australasian symposium, inviting scientists, engineers, environmental planners, and of course - environmental historians - to share stories and create a shared future?

And where to hold it? Christchurch of course - a city which now has a unique opportunity to become the world's first 'wetland metropolis', recreating and re-wilding the intricate network of wetlands and streams that once covered the whole of the Christchurch basin, home to a rich interconnected web of wildlife.

I have spoken with a number of people recently about the importance of hope when talking about the environment - this is one example of the past intersecting with the future to create vectors of hope and possibility.

[Image top: Awapuni lagoon, 1881 - this beautiful lagoon was later deforested and drained, and today forms part of the floodway for an urban stream. Image above: an artist's impression of a wetland forest park that could be created in Christchurch's 'redzone']

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