Rejuvenation of the Avon River Corridor, Christchurch, New Zealand

River corridor as a catalyst for future development after earthquake

Posted on 3 June 2015


Following the devastating earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, the consortium of Opus Engineers and BDP was selected to develop proposals for the rejuvenation of the Avon River Corridor. The Avon River is the City’s first post earthquake Anchor project and covers a 3.2 kilometre stretch of the river corridor as it passes through the city centre.

Besides devising strategies to cleanse the river bed and improve the quality of the water flowing in the river, the concept also proposes a network of pedestrian and cycle ‘journeys’ along the banks of the rives and includes designs for the interface between the river and the adjoining plots. The thinking behind this is that an improved river will stimulate redevelopment in the city centre. 

The scheme includes proposals for the treatment of storm water, vehicular movement, paving, furniture, lighting, signing, and of course ecology and vegetation. 

The use of raingardens is key to the redesign of the river corridor, which will ensure that the river stays clean and healthy. The raingardens help to define the space as well as providing their fundamental function of collecting and cleaning storm water. 

Besides BDP, the design team included New Zealand landscape architects and experts in aquatic ecology and river systems. 



The Avon River is at the heart of the City’s renewal strategy. The design principles seek to create a place that will be healthier, more distinctive, accessible and prosperous. The design also seeks to enhance the diversity and ecology of the river, improve the water quality of the river, re-engage and re-connect people with the river and establish the river precinct as Christchurch’s prime landscape experience and destination.  


Concept and Developed Design stages were completed in 2013 and detailed design packages followed in 2014. 

Current status
Construction started in 2014 and will be concluded in late 2015.


The work has a strong environmental and social dimension. The water quality has improved since the implementation of the strategies to cleanse the river bed.

Spin off
The rejuvenation of the river has led to an overall improvement of the environmental and spatial quality of the devastated city centre and has contributed to the redevelopment thereof. 

Lessons learnt
A project of this scope and complexity can only succeed if ecologists, engineers and designers work side by side. The successful design and engineering collective was co-located in close proximity to the city centre in some vacant office space above a second hand car dealership. The integrated and multi-disciplinarily approach sparked innovation.

Project location

Project partners

  • BDP