How can we protect our natural environment?

Development is making the natural environment vulnerable to irreversible damage. As development intensifies, open space and natural habitat is lost. As habitats are reduced in size and separated from other habitats, the plant and wildlife ecosystems fail and begin a cycle of destruction and decay.

Many ecological sites in Greater Christchurch are small, fragmented and very vulnerable. Some of these areas have no regulatory protection – that means their survival is dependent upon people making the effort because they want to, not because the law requires them to. The Estuary, Riccarton Bush, the Travis Wetlands and many areas around Banks Peninsula, such as Mt. Herbert, provide a home for many species that would otherwise migrate or die out. How will our clean, green image in urban and rural areas be affected by development and what impact will this have on tourism?

Do we want to protect the banks of the streams and rivers, provide healthy wetlands, coastlines, hills and plains? If the decision is yes, then choices must be made to limit or prevent development in these areas.

How will we protect the quality and quantity of our water supply?

Greater Christchurch currently enjoys one of the best supplies of high-quality untreated drinking water in New Zealand and the world. That's because to the west and north of Christchurch City is a groundwater recharge area for the series of aquifers under Christchurch City – underground water fed from the Waimakariri River.

This water has been clean and plentiful – so far. Drinking pristine water from our taps is a luxury most other places in the world do not have. How do we sustain this quality of water for the future?

Development and increasing demand for water for more intensive farming, a growing number of households and general development is threatening water quality and quantity. Protecting both the aquifers and the river that feeds them from pollution and overdemand will be a top priority if we want to be able to continue drinking untreated water from the tap. Do you think the water you drink is worth protecting?

How will we protect our community against natural disasters?

The Greater Christchurch area is prone to such natural hazards as flooding, earthquake and tsunami. We know some areas are more at risk than others, so should we discourage development in such areas?

In Greater Christchurch, there are parts of the area that are better suited for development than others. In the eastern part of Greater Christchurch, if you were to draw a line north and south through Cathedral Square the area to the east down to the sea has soils made up of marine sediments, estuary and some floodplain deposits.

These are areas prone to liquefaction (the shaking of the ground during an earthquake that can cause the ground to liquefy). Should we avoid developing at-risk areas when planning for future growth or rely on engineering solutions to these risks?

Flooding is a regular occurrence in Greater Christchurch. There are stopbanks built along the Waimakariri and Ashley Rivers to confine floodwaters within the main riverbed but if floodwaters escape then the Waimakariri River would flow south through Christchurch and north through Kaiapoi. In low lying coastal areas there is also the threat of coastal flooding and sea-level rise, as a result of climate change. Should we aim to minimise the impacts of potential flooding from rivers and the sea when planning development?

It's many years since a major earthquake affected the Greater Christchurch area, but experts predict the big one's coming. Should we take this into account in planning the nature and location of future facilities, roads, services and housing areas?

Did you know...

Our water's really good:
There are only two places in the world where you can enjoy drinking untreated water straight from the tap – one is Evian in France and the other is Christchurch. Try the water in Dunedin or Auckland and then consider whether we're doing enough to protect our water supply.

We're consuming a lot of water:
56 million cubic metres of water are pumped from the Christchurch – West Melton aquifer annually for domestic water use. The greatest use of water goes for activities such as watering gardens and washing cars. In urban areas the larger the section size the more water we use on our gardens. Washing a car with a hose uses the same amount of water consumed by a family over one week. How can we better conserve our excellent water?

Our greatest threats are from flooding and earthquakes:
The Waimakariri River threatens more people and property than any other New Zealand river. Within Christchurch, the Heathcote River has overflowed its banks and flooded houses twice in the past decade. A significant earthquake could be even more destructive.

Our eco-system is special:
Greater Christchurch is the natural home for around 400 native plants including 31 species on the nationally threatened plant list. Some of our local natives are the Spotted Skink, Pied Cormorant, Wrybill, Tuna (eel) and Red Admiral Butterfly.