Kevin O’Connor

Since 1956 Kevin, along with his wife and family have lived on Clifton, their home having a panoramic view across, and vastly beyond the Avon-Heathcote estuary. Kevin has found this daily proximity to the waterway, has provided him with a deeply personal opportunity to observe and reflect, on the city’s wetland system.

He has campaigned for the improvement of the estuary and its catchment and contributed to the development of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust charter, deed and integrated environmental management plan.

In the summer of 1948, during his holiday break from university, Kevin cycled around the South Island. Included in this six week adventure was a visit to Christchurch; one of his discoveries here being the Avon-Heathcote estuary. He recalled coming upon the waterway for the first time and how his initial impressions centred on the potential the estuary offered as a recreational playground.

Having lived overlooking and travelling almost daily past this tidal wetland since deciding to settle on Clifton, in Sumner in 1958, he recounts how his impressions of this expanse of water has been altered over time:

Gradually I found that I was starting to think like the estuary instead of thinking like simply a father aiming to make use of the estuary for the recreation of his family. We enjoyed the beach at Sumner, we could enjoy the tide in or tide out there. We knew and understood the beach at Clifton. Arh, the estuary seemed to be telling its own message and the more I thought on this at the time the more that I see that it was trying to tell the whole city something. It was in fact a quietly pulsing organ in the centre of the city organism, like a heart with a regular beat in an ordinary body it was in and out twice a day everything about it adjusting to that diurnal rhythm.

Kevin considers and understands the Avon-Heathcote estuary and its catchment as a great natural resource sited in a specific and equally important wider landscape. Much is left to be done to develop this as necessary knowledge and awareness amongst the occupants of Christchurch. He provides a precise of his point of view on this matter:

What I think still needs to happen in Christchurch as a whole is the big transformation at a macro scale and that will come about only when, ah we recognise that we are all living in a particular kind of wetland system. That we are living in a wetland at the foot of a expansive dry land system, which is the plains and another different kind of dry system which is the Port Hills. Um, and if we don’t understand that somehow or other the estuary and its two tributaries differently feed according to those two dry land systems and the Waimak [Waimakariri River] to the northern boundary – ah, they constitute a whole big vascular system which gives you all sorts of pleasurable ways of reflection as well as design in the way that you need to do things in order to continue to live an urban life.