Posts Tagged ‘Avon River’

Continual rain overnight (thanks to Cyclone Cook) meant that our patio was flooded when we got up this morning.

Patio Pond

We’ve not seen it like this before.  There was 40mm of rain overnight, and the ground underneath must still be saturated from the previous week’s rain.  Luckily it’s draining now the rain has eased.  The river was also high, and was over its banks in several places.

Avon/Otakaro near Barbadoes Street Bridge

It’s flowed onto Fitzgerald Avenue near the Kilmore Street intersection.  We’ve been spared the high winds that have caused problems in the North Island, and a fine afternoon is forecast.

“I’ll stay inside, the river’s high
and I want to keep warm and dry.’


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Hope is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson  is a poem I often think of when I see ducklings.  They are such an endearing symbol of renewal.  This poem is often found in anthologies of readings suitable for weddings, yet I’ve never been asked to include it in a ceremony.

Yesterday I saw ten brand new ducklings down by Sunset Corner.


Today there were seven Paradise ducklings at the Margaret Mahy Playground.


All uplifting symbols of hope and regeneration.

“A duckling is the sweetest thing
and sure to make any soul sing.”

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To see horses crossing Barbadoes Street is unusual.  I grabbed my camera and followed them along the river.


These horses usually live in Marshland Road, and had come into town to give some children a ride.  They were now being offered a chance to cool off in the river.  I did wonder whether pollution in the water might  be harmful to them.

The horses’ owner was called Richie, and I think he’s Richard Hayden, who has previously seen in town with horses.  Certainly the ponies and dog look the same.

“A horse is not a common sight
to have them near was a delight.”


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A mother duck was swimming beside The Terraces this morning with eight new ducklings.

Duck family

Duck family

The eels were nearby, and mother duck was doing her best to keep the family away from them.

Eel family

Eel family

I doubt that there’ll still be eight ducklings tomorrow.  On the other side of the river two scaupe were sleeping in the sunshine.

Sleepy scaupe

Sleepy scaupe

“A lovely warm and sunny day
means summer’s surely on the way.”

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The walking tour along the Otakaro was a feature of this year’s WORD festival.  Offered on three days, it quickly sold out, and I was glad to have secured a place.  Joseph Hullen (Ngai Tuahuriri, Ngai Tahu) led us first to the riverbank in Victoria Square, opposite the law courts, where there is a significant group of Ti Kouka/Cabbage trees.

Ti Kouka (Small)

Ti Kouka trees, of the same family as leeks and onions, provided food, shelter, clothing, and footwear for early Maori.  This area was the largest mahinga kai/food gathering area in Otautahi, and from here food was transported to the settlement at Kaiapoi.  There were a number of Pa nearby, which served as way stations for travellers, and where people could keep an eye on their food source.  From the 1780s local Maori interacted and traded with sealers and whalers, but in 1850 the Pa sites disappeared with the Kemp Purchase.  The first organised commerce between Kai Tahu and Pakeha settlers happened at the Market Square (now Victoria Square).  Maori built houses on the corner where the Oxford Tavern later stood, and brought goods in from Kaiapoi to sell to the settlers.

There were urupa/graveyards all through the city, because Maori like to bury their dead where they can keep an eye on them.  When the St Luke’s Vicarage was built a skeleton was found which is considered to be that of Tautahi for whom Otautahi was named.  Since the earthquakes, wherever there are excavations they will be overseen by an archaeologist, and by a member of the runanga if it’s an area where there may have been an urupa.

Because of the food gathering tradition of the Otakaro/Avon River, Kai Tahu are keen to have their cultural values commemorated.  Patterns laid out in stone, such as this one at the Margaret Mahy Family Playground, help to tell the stories.

Maori Design MMP (Small)

The patterns are set in a metal frame so that if the area needs to be dug up in future the pattern can ramain intact.

Some of Joseph’s story was heard in an interview with Kim Hill on Saturday morning.  His part comes after the bit with Sam Crofskey of C1 Espresso.

After the walk I went to a session on Ngai Tahu Story Telling with Ta Tipene O’Regan.  He talked about an oral map, and how when cultures move they take the memories with them and plant them in a new place.  Place names are the memory posts, the signposts of the land.  He told the story of Poutini, and how Port Levy got its Maori name Koukourarata.   Ta Tipene said that myth is the only reality.

“An afternoon of Maori lore
has left me wanting to hear more.”



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Mist on river (Small)

There was mist on the river at 8.30am this morning.  No frost, but it was cold!

To Maori mists are thought to be the sighs of Papatuanuku rising to the sky god Rangi for whom she forever mourns after their separation.

Another story that explains both the appearance and disappearance of mists features Hinepukohu-rangi Sky Mist Woman and her sister Hine-wai, the rain that falls in foggy weather.  Sky Mist Woman decended to earth to visit her lover in secrecy, and at dawn her sister called out to warn them that daylight was coming.  Sky Mist Woman and her sister returned to the sky.  Sky Mist Woman had warned her human lover never to tell of their meetings, but he did, and so she never returned to him.  He searched and searched for her until finally he died.  After he died he became the rainbow that accompanies the mist.

“He lost his love who was the mist
because he told about their tryst.”

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Cabbage Trees (Small)A significant ti kouka (cabbage tree) on the banks of the Ōtākaro/Avon within the Englefield Lodge estate was used as a fishing marker by local Māori in the 19th century.  The tree was removed in 1922 then formally replaced in 1994. The replacement can be seen on Avonside Drive, just east of Fitzgerald Avenue.  The adjoining plaque reads “He tohu whakamaumahara o matau tipuna”, which can be translated as “Remember the ancestors”.

This memorial commemorates the Kāi Tahu allocation of fishing sites in the area. The swamplands that were so highly prized by Māori were not regarded favourably by European colonists who diverted waters from the traditional māhinga kai to make way for cultivation and urban development.

“The Pakeha moved swamp to drains
and very little now remains.”

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When there’s light rain (or a heavy shower) people taking punt rides are offered umbrellas.

Punting with umbrellas (Small)

This group looked happy cruising along under cover.  The rain was light, so the puntman was fine.  I wonder how he fares when it’s pouring?

“Don’t cancel ’cause the weather’s poor
that’s what those brollies blue are for.”


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Lovely to see young people paddle-boarding along the river.



I presume they know how polluted it is.  If they fall in they’ll need to hurry home and shower.

“It’s good to have the river used
and sad that it’s been so abused.”

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Walking around our loop of the river used to be a one of my pleasures.  Since all the houses have gone I find it less enjoyable.  Where I used to walk daily I now go only every few weeks to see what changes have been made, hoping the experience may improve.  Where homes once stood there is now grass and trees, but the whole area is surrounded by a strong wire fence.  Stern notices say “No unauthorised access, no dumping”.  It’s very clear that all the land now belongs to CERA and no visitors are welcome.  I appreciate they want to keep vehicles off, but surely they could allow people in?  Perhaps via a stile?  It seems hard that those who used to live here are now totally forbidden.  Foragers, too, are not allowed, so fruit just goes to waste.

On the riverbank signs warn “Polluted water!  Please avoid contact”.   The ducks are there, but no kayaks these days.  As I walk round I see only a few strangers.  In the past I would have met and spoken to local people.  Now it’s hard to be sure which piece of land belonged to which family.

A large oak tree has broken in the wind.  The centre is obviously rotten.  I wonder if the remaining part will stay, or be removed?

Broken oak

Broken oak

It’s all sad.  The only good news is that the Holiday Inn on Avon is finally being demolished.  We’re glad to be rid of this broken eyesore, and it seems unlikely to be replaced soon, but who knows . . . . . .

“This area, once such a gem
is now a scene for requiem.”


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