Students Avon River Bike Race: Christchurch Photo Hunt 2017

Photo Hunt 2017: Plains, Port Hills & Peninsula – Finding our way

This year the theme for Photo Hunt is Plains, Port Hills & Peninsula – Finding our way. However, the photos you submit are not limited to this theme. We invite you to share any of your photos and help grow the city’s photographic archive. All entries must be received by 31 October.

Christchurch City Libraries has produced a set of four postcards promoting the competition which are available from your local library. Each week during October we’ll be featuring one of the postcard images on our blog.

Students Avon River Bike Race by kevinkemp. Kete Christchurch. Avon_bike_race.  Licensed under a CC BY 3.0 NZ License.

Avon River bike race for University of Canterbury rag day.

About Kete Christchurch

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Podcast – Canterbury’s residential red zone

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from New Zealand’s only specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

The latest episode deals with issues surrounding land in Canterbury that since the 2010/2011 earthquakes has been zoned red and no longer suitable for residential use.

  • Part I: Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford talks us through the impacts of the red zoning on people still residing in these areas, including in terms of mental health. With reference to the Staying in the Red Zones Report.
  • Part II: What has happened with the red zoned land since 2011 in Waimakariri District and Christchurch city? What are the differences between the various red zoned areas? What lessons can the Waimakariri experience provide for Christchurch?
  • Part III: Public consultation processes – what suggestions have already been proposed? Are people disengaged and how can they be re-engaged? What is the importance of the land for today and future generations? What do you hope to see happen with the land?

This show includes discussion with Simon Markham (Waimakariri District Council), Rob Kerr (Regenerate Christchurch) and Evan Smith (Avon-Ōtākaro Network).

Transcript of the audio file

Mentioned in this podcast

Find out more in our collection

Cover of Waimakariri residential Red Zone Recovery plan Cover of Greening the Red Zone Cover of Staying in the red zones Cover of Christchurch Central Recovery Plan  Cover of Recovery Strategy for Greater Christchurch Cover of Monitoring Human Rights in the Canterbury earthquake recovery Cover of Natural Environment Recovery Programme for Greater Christchurch

More about Speak up – Kōrerotia

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Thomas Edmonds Band Rotunda, foggy morning, 1960s : Picturing Canterbury

Tranquil morning scene of Edmonds Rotunda prior to conversion to a restaurant. From colour transparency by Neil S. Bowie 1912-1972. Date: 1960s. File Reference: HW08-D-015-EdmondsRotunda Entry in the Christchurch City Libraries 2008 Photo Hunt. Kete Christchurch. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

The ‘Cutting’ and Withell’s Island

sketchmapPeople have been tinkering with the Avon River since the early days of European settlement.  The original  route of the Avon was round Owles Terrace. Sand blocked the channel and it was feared that this might prevent development of commerce, via small vessels, up the Avon. The cutting was started by contractors, McGrath and Brady, and completed by the Canterbury Provincial Council in 1859. The area which was created through ‘the cut’ is Withell’s Island, named after a late owner, Charles Withell (1832-1916). Vessels have never, in any appreciable numbers, come ‘sailing with the tide’.

For many years the ‘cutting’ or ‘island’, with its wildlife, attracted children and at least one boy, Eddie Lawry, was drowned there. About 1910, the New Brighton Borough Council took sandhills, trucked them to the island and filled in the original watercourse.

Tom Gray’s reminiscences contain references to the creation of ‘the Cutting’:A notable undertaking in which he played a part was the making of a cutting through the Avon near the present New Brighton bridge so as to do away with an ‘elbow’ in the river there. This work was put in hand in conjunction with the building of Bricks Wharf at Barbadoes Street, at the time when it was hoped to inaugurate a steamer service up the river to that point ….

New Brighton was a thorough wilderness then, Peter Kerr’s house on the old Brighton Road being the last habitation out in that direction. There were about 50 men employed on the work. The beach was … thickly scattered with whalebones, many of which were for years afterwards to be seen forming bowers and other sorts of decorations in residences in the neighbourhood of the city. There was … timber on the beach which had come down from the mills then working at various points round the coast, and the contract men occasionally made more money selling the whale-bones and the timber than they would in many a day’s work.

Mushrooms also grew thickly adjacent to the river banks right up to the niggerheads, and the swamps round about were smothered with wild ducks. Sea birds were to be seen by the thousands where you will only see an occasional one now ….

Another thing … was the great quantity of frost-fish which were washed up on the beach …. We did not know what they were and thought they were unfit for eating, till … our cook discovered their delicacy as a food. We might have known that they were good for eating … because the gulls were always making meals of them, and these birds, like the rats, don’t go in for the worst of things.

Betty Innes’ handwritten reminiscences of about 1910-20

The river carnivals were held annually. There would be decorated boat and many other attractions and competitions including pillow fight on the greasy pole. The pole was erected horizontally over the river and slightly greased to make it rather slippery and the two contestants sat on this and at the word go began to pelt each other with pillows until one was unseated and fell into the river ….

We used to spend much time fishing … Our usual place was the river opposite Mountbatten Street. On a fine day the river bank there would be lined with fishermen.  We also occasionally fished at Herring Bay ….

The river originally followed the course alongside Owles Terrace,Union Street and Brighton Terrace and the cut through from the Power Boat Club to the end of Brighton Terrace was made some time before we came here but the old river bed was still full of water. Thus an island was formed. This was first used by Mr. Sefton, a local carrier and coal merchant, to run his horse in. One was bogged there and only extricated with great difficulty. Mr. Withell next brought this land and contracted with Mr. Bodger to fill it in. For months there was a small gauge tram track running from the sandhills along Shackleton Street to Union Street and thence to the island. Small trucks of sand were pulled along these by the horses. Many a ride we children had in those trucks.


  • Brighton standard
  • Greenaway, Richard,’ Taming the Avon’, Press, 28 February 1976
  • Innes, Betty, ‘Reminiscences’ – held by Richard Greenaway
  • ‘The lad from Tipperary’,  Star, 31 May 1919 p 8
  • Lyttelton times, Papers past

This information came from Richard Greenaway – an expert on the local history of Christchurch. Some of you might have been on one of his fascinating cemetery tours. He has an eye for a good story and the skill and patience to check and cross check all kinds of references. He has compiled a wonderful array of New Brighton stories.

A river runs through it

‘Eventide’:photo of an 1888 John Gibb painting of the river at Burwood. Original owned by the Parochial District of Burwood

Having spent most of my Christchurch life living east of the Square and close to the Avon River, I’m pretty passionate about the delights of those riverside suburbs like Richmond, Avonside, Dallington and out to New Brighton. The river has always been a source of beauty, fun, exercise and general place defining for my family. So I was pretty chuffed to see the folks at the Avon-Otakaro Network are organising a Spring River festival. I’d encourage people all over Christchurch to get in behind this. Take a trip across town and get involved in the programme.

Yes the roads are shocking (just go slowly) and you’ll see some pretty depressing sights, but the folks over the East side need your support. Check out local shops and spend some money there and visit three of our coolest  libraries – Parklands, Aranui and New Brighton. You can still walk and cycle along the river in many places, the beach is still the beach and the river, the Estuary and Travis Wetland still teem with birdlife. There is also The Breeze Walking Festival  from 29 September to 7 October which offers 22 walks for all fitness levels.

Eastern Christchurch and the river has always attracted interesting characters, like Professor Bickerton, and has been a happy hunting ground for local historians. Our own Richard Greenaway has explored the eastern suburbs in depth. A good example is his Requiem for a watering hole: The Bower Hotel. Another fascinating source of local history is Tim Baker from Aranui and you can’t go past Bruce Ansley’s Gods and little fishes for capturing the flavour of New Brighton.

A bridge with some history

photographRichard Greenaway is an expert on the local history of Christchurch. He has an eye for a good story and the skill and patience to check and cross check all kinds of references. He has compiled a wonderful array of New Brighton stories. This one concerns the Central  Brighton bridge on  Seaview Road.

The original Seaview Road bridge was a flat bridge which was replaced at the beginning of 1930s by the present bridge. This was designed by H. F. Toogood, father of Selwyn Toogood.  See photos of bridges in George W. Walsh’s New Brighton, a regional history, 1852-1970.

photographThe modern Seaview Road bridge is a high bridge. The hump in the bridge is there because Richard Bedward Owen (1873-1948), tailor and conservationist, known as ‘River Bank Owen’, argued that boats could come ‘sailing with the tide’ to Christchurch. They never have.

Owen’s conflict with the New Brighton Borough Council brought forth verse which appeared in the Star of 1 October 1927. A Mr. Wright was Owen’s lawyer. J. A. Flesher (1865-1930) was the borough council’s lawyer and A, W. Owles (1847-1940) the Mayor from 1927-29. Flesher and Owles had a personal squabble during the greater battle. Perhaps there was long-standing bad blood between them. They had once stood against each other for the position of Mayor and Flesher had won.

In the 1970s I met Mr. Hensley, lawyer with Hensley and Mortlock. He told me how, as a young man collecting information for Mr. Wright, he had spoken to elderly residents and gathered information on the vessels which had come up the Avon in pioneer times.

The councillors of Brighton,
by the Nine Gods they swore
they’d build a bridge full four feet high
but not a damned inch more.
By the Nine Gods they swore it
and coolly went their way,
and called for tenders for the job
and fixed up who would pay.

Then out spake R B Owen,
the River Banker bold:
“Your proposition’s a disgrace.
The people’s rights you’ve sold.
In perpetuity I claim the right of navigation.
Now who will put in my right hand
the costs of litigation?”

The privy purse was duly lined
and lawyers were engaged.
The issue long remained in doubt
while Wright and Flesher raged.
The Court below to RBO
awarded its decision;
but on appeal his argument
was treated with derision.

“Oh, Avon, Mother Avon”,
cried Owen in distraction,
“His Majesty in Council
shall adjudicate this action.
Five hundred quid’s as nothing,
and we’ll see this matter through

unless you folks agree to raise
this bridge a foot or two.”

And so the bridge remains unbuilt,
and contest’s still unended;
and Owen’s owin’ more and more
for costs and fees expended;
while Captain Owles irately howls
that JAF’s uncivil,
and JAF consigns the worthy captain
to the Devil.

But R B Owen’s sure to win
for Wright is on his side;
and when, in days to come, the boats
come sailing with the tide,
and pass with ease beneath the span,
then will the tale be told
how valiantly he raised the bridge
in the brave days of old.


Richard Greenaway

Fragile memories

I never expected to meet my dead relatives at work, but last week I may have done just that.

photographRecently I’ve been lucky enough to work on a really special part of our archival collection: a large set of Edwardian photographic negatives on glass plates. Some of these are of Christchurch and New Zealand scenes but the vast majority were taken near the Antigua Boatsheds: snapshots of folk enjoying a paddle-about in the boatsheds’ hired canoes and rowboats.

Now I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve attempted that particular lark I’ve ended up wet. Very wet. I don’t know how or if these early-1900s boaters managed to avoid that particular fate but, wow-eee, they are dressed up to the nines! The ladies are in fabulous dresses – not to mention some truly enormous hats – and the gents look absolutely spiffing.

These images are real survivors. Not only have they come through over one hundred years with nothing worse than a bit of dust and the very occasional lost corner but they also, by virtue of their own quite considerable boxed weight, stayed put on their shelf through all our recent rocking and rolling. Now we’ve started on the process of gently cleaning and rehousing them so that we can, in future, make them available as digitised images on our website.

Cleaning a glass plate negativeFactory-produced glass plate negatives with a gelatin-based emulsion were in wide use by photographers from the 1880s up until the 1920s, when they were suceeded by the more convenient gelatin silver paper negatives and gelatin silver negatives on celluloid roll film. They are fragile but they produce fantastically detailed images. If you have glass plate negatives of your own, the American National Archives provides some good advice about how to store them. If you think they need to be cleaned, however, please consult a conservator as it’s easy to irreversibly damage these treasures if you’re not sure what you’re doing.

And those dead relatives? Well, as I was working my way though one set my eye was caught by a familiar surname on an image showing three young ladies in canoes. Sadly I never met my three maiden great-aunts of whom my mother speaks so fondly (the last died a few months before I was born) but I rather like to think it’s them, enjoying an afternoon’s “messing about in boats.”

We’ll be working on getting these images ready to digitise for a wee while yet, but I’ll keep you posted about their online debut. Meantime, have a browse through some of our existing heritage images – those Victorians and Edwardians will surprise and delight you.

The Boulevard?

MapMaybe we have a name for our new green space by the Avon.

According to the Christchurch City Libraries street name index

During the 1920s Richard Bedward Owen (1873-1948), a tailor, envisaged the establishment of a boulevard … on both sides of the Avon River from the Carlton Mill bridge to the Estuary … Owen wanted wide lawns between road and river with tall trees planted near the banks.

Clearly a man ahead of his time.

The Avon River runs through it

Sketching on the banks of the Avon, Oxford Terrace, near the Edmonds Rotunda, 1932

Christchurch loves the Avon, but our feelings about the river are now tinged with sadness. We just need to look  at how some of the land and properties on its boundaries have fared since the earthquakes.

This geologically young river has a rich history.  It was known as Ōtākaro – “the place of a game” – to local Māori, and was highly regarded as a mahinga kai by Waitaha, Ngāti Māmoe and Ngāi Tahu.

Tautahi is the chief from whom Christchurch Ōtautahi derives its name. In his time,  few Māori would have lived in the Ōtākaro area itself. Those that did were known to Māori living outside the region as Ō Roto Repo (swamp dwellers).”

It was later named the Avon after the Avon River in Ayrshire, the home of pioneer settlers and farmers the Deans brothers.

You can find more about the Avon:

Watering the elephants

Circus elephants in the AvonToday as a society we feel pretty strongly about circus elephants. Kiwi kids are less and less likely to have the chance to see a real elephant unless they go to Auckland Zoo or travel abroad.

In 1934 things were a lot different, and I have to admit it made Christchurch seem a pretty colourful place as shown by this picture of Wirth’s circus elephants being watered in the Avon river between the Armagh and Victoria bridges.