The realities of rafting in Christchurch

There are two rivers in Christchurch: Avon and Heathcote. One of the tributaries to Heathcote runs, literally, behind my house. It's our "backyard" river.

Because I am planning on going rafting soon, I figured, how about I raft down Heathcote first? I could launch in here, at home, and do a leisurely three-hour journey to where the river starts running into the tidal estuary at which point I would clamber back out - I don't fancy much rafting in mud.

Except, as soon as I started googling, something suspicious caught my attention: there were no previous accounts of people having done it. At all.

At first, I couldn't figure it out. The river is deep enough for paddling, there are no restricted areas and very few obstacles, and it runs through lovely neighborhoods. I have walked and biked on its banks numerous times, and it looks lovely.

So why aren't people paddling it?

And then I found the answer: water quality. I don't know what the numbers are at the moment (I have called the council but I haven't heard back yet), but a year ago the Heathcote's rating was "Very poor" and it is basically the lowest rating a river can even get. "Very poor" means, don't swim in it.

And then I kind of went... oh.

I keep forgetting that I am living in a post-earthquake city. I keep forgetting that there are still miles (and miles) of unrepaired stormwater pipes everywhere; and sewerage! I keep forgetting that the old sewerage is designed so that when the system floods (or as they call it politely, "is under pressure"), it empties into rivers. As in, raw sewage empties into rivers - or put even more simply, human poop empties into rivers.


And so it did not occur to me that although the suburbs surrounding Heathcote are mostly repaired and looking like a "normal" city again (no tarpaulins on roofs, no collapsed chimneys, only occasional houses surrounded by construction fences), the river itself is still, how do I put it... pooped. E. coli bacteria is still at way, way higher levels than is safe for recreational use, let alone eating anything caught from it, so...


I think I am going to raft down the Avon river instead. (There's an interesting account here, if you're interested. A reporter from The Press, Charlie Gates, walked and kayaked the Avon from its beginning right down to the estuary, and it's a fun read.)

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