Chrissie Williams lives in South Brighton, she has been a long time advocate for
Christchurch’s waterways and wetlands, and has a particular interest in provision for recreational access.
Chrissie was a member of the Waste Water Working Party 1996-2000, established to consider alternate solutions to releasing waste effluent in to the Avon-Heathcote Estuary. She also took a leading role in the community consultation process, which commenced in 1998 and led to the formation of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust, 2002. She has attended numerous wetland organisations meetings, as well as being a participant in a variety of practical initiatives. The local wetland associations she has been affiliated with include the Combined Estuary Association [Christchurch Estuary Association], the Friends of the Estuary, Travis Wetland Trust, and the Bexley Wetland Trust. She is a founding Trustee of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust, and currently continues in this role.
The Combined Estuary Association was formed in the early 1970’s amidst growing concern about the deteriorating state of the estuary, its purpose was to provide organised meetings for those who had an interest in the estuary environment and a means by which any issue raised could be brought to the attention of the appropriate authority.
Roger Lusby, who attended the Association meetings and became Chairman, initiated “an education wing,” called the Friends of the Estuary 1990-2003. Chrissie describes the nature of these two organisations:
Both the Association [Combined Estuary] and the Friends of the Estuary, I’ll call them those, the Christchurch Estuary Association formed because of a reaction, to the, quality, the decreasing, or degrading quality, of the, of the water in the estuary, that was their main instigation. They really lobbied, they felt their role was lobbying council, and getting, getting action happening. The Friends of the Estuary started up to try and increase that educational role, but again it was a voluntary organisation, community based, um, the Christchurch Estuary association, had initially, had, I think it was about sixteen organisational members, so it was a representative model. So each of the yacht clubs, residents associations, and the community boards sent representatives, and the Department of Conservation sent representatives along. It changed later to, um, be [an] incorporated society and at that stage people could become individual members of it and be on the committee. The Friends had a, just a small executive working group and had a lot of, a very large membership, but the membership really only just turned up to meetings, they didn’t do, they didn’t do activities or plantings, or anything like that. It was really round education.
The Friends of the Estuary group was discontinued for a number of reasons at the time it disbanded, its executive considered that the newly formed Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust would continue the educational role this group had initiated.
The Combined Estuary Association, now the Christchurch Estuary Association, continues to meet. Chrissie outlines:
The Christchurch Estuary Association still exists, they were formed in the 1970’s, when, 1971 I think it was, around then and they did a lot of work in the early days, with particular, particularly round the industries that were discharging into the Heathcote River, the lower Heathcote River and effecting the estuary. They also had a lot of involvement with people wanting to build jetties and other structures round the estuary. They’ve always been there as “watchdogs” often probably quite confrontational and probably the biggest impact that they’ve had is been, was through their involvement, in, round 2002, when the council were looking at continuing to discharge the waste water into the estuary and the Estuary Association built an enormous case to object to that and to try and get it discharged directly to the ocean which has ended up what’s happening. The Estuary Association has felt; and ah, I am sure you’ll be speaking to people; they can speak more on their own behalf now, but that their role has been to make sure that the waste water gets out of the estuary. Once the pipeline’s commissioned later this year I’m not sure whether they’ll review their need to exist but currently they feel they still need to exist. They haven’t got complete trust in the Ihutai Trust to take over their work.