25 November 2022

New lease of life for former high school gym

 The old Shirley Boys’ High School gym, which is being transformed into a community-based sports and recreational centre, opens its doors early next year.

 The North Parade building became empty when Shirley Boys’ High School moved to a new purpose-built school in New Brighton in May 2019. The school was demolished, leaving only the gym behind.

 A new school is being built on the site for Pareawa Banks Avenue Primary School, which will use the sports and recreation centre, along with other local schools. Sports clubs and community groups can hire the venue and outdoor pitches in the evenings. The gym, function centre and artificial turf – collectively known as Avon Hub – will be managed by Eastern Community Sportand Recreation Inc (ECSR).

 ECSR Community Sport Manager Kate Latimer says it wants as many community organisations as possible to use the centre. When the gym was part of the school it was used by hockey, basketball, volleyball, futsal, and badminton clubs. She says ECSR is looking forward to welcoming these clubs back and plans to add many other activities.

 “We are keen to ensure this valuable local asset, which served the high school over several decades, is retained for community use,” Kate says. “We’ve worked alongside the Ministry of Education and Pareawa Banks Avenue Primary School to keep the facility thriving so we can maximise its use by local people.

 “Our philosophy with community facilities is to maximise their use by ensuring as many different groups, organisers and individuals as possible can do something with them. We want to open the doors to everyone in Shirley to make that happen and will welcome ideas from anyone about how we can best make it work for the community.”

 The function room is suitable for activities such as dance, martial arts, yoga, and Pilates, while other spaces are ideal for other recreation programmes.

 With two schools alongside, there are many options for after school and holiday programmes. Offices in the building present the potential to sublet, while a kitchen adjacent to the function room will be useful for social events, so it could easily serve as an ‘after match’ club room for sports teams playing in the gym or on the turf, Kate says.

 Catering for the disabled and special needs community is one of its goals, Kate says. Its proximity to the Burwood Spinal Unit means it will be opening its doors to members of this community. Avon Hub will be home to Canterbury Wheelchair Rugby and TIMA, which provides integrated physical opportunities for youth with adapted needs.

Several other local early childhood centres, primary, intermediate, and secondary schools which comprise the Ministry’s Otakaro Kahui Ako cluster will also have access to the facilities.

 More information

Kate Latimer,,  027 728 3005,

Avon Hub work site 2


16th February 2021

ECSR and our member organisation Guardians of Rawhiti have progressed plans for a play area and sanctuary for butterflies and native birds on Rawhiti Domain. Christchurch City Council is consulting the community on this project, which if approved will be completed over the coming months.To have your say on these plans, which will create a valuable community recreational asset, please follow this link, and let the Council know what you think before 8 March:

28th July 2020: News release

Funding provides green light for plans to bring native birds and butterflies back to Rāwhiti

Plans for a community environmental enhancement project, initiated by neighbours of a Canterbury reserve and gaining momentum for the past five years, received the green light this week under a $580,000 grant from the government’s Shovel Ready Projects funding.

Guardians of Rāwhiti Domain chairperson Cathy Baker has been working since 2015 to create an inspiring vision for a 1.7 hectare section of Rāwhiti Domain on the east side of Christchurch. Designated in the Rāwhiti Domain Management Plan of 2007 as a natural play area for children, the area incorporates a 100 year old monarch butterfly habitat. Plans include a native bird habitat nourished by nectar gardens.

Cathy is delighted that the funding will turn the vision into reality.

“For decades Rāwhiti Domain was home to native birds, native and monarch butterflies, and bees. Although monarch butterflies have wintered over in the Domain for more than a century, their numbers declined markedly after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, which hit the east badly. Even more disturbing, the native birds took off and didn’t return after their food source disappeared with the demolition of 6000 local homes and gardens.

“Guardians of Rāwhiti Domain was established to remedy this situation in 2015. Our goal is to bring native species back, while incorporating a natural woodland play space with an education centre emphasising the ecology of the domain and the Canterbury coast.

“Our plans have been ready to go for awhile, and we have explored several potential funding options. Using the Shovel Ready Projects fund will enable us to proceed, creating a peaceful natural amenity for the reserve that will be cherished by locals and visitors alike,” she said.

Local schools have participated in planting days and growing swan plants to feed the monarch butterflies. Including specific access features in the plans means children and others with disabilities will be able to fully enjoy the woodland play space, says Cathy Baker.

“Throughout the Christchurch rebuild the community in the east, and particularly our local young people, have been largely ignored. They went through significant trauma and many of the repercussions continue rising to the surface, including high anxiety, anger and panic attacks, which have been especially noticeable at schools. Last year’s terrorist attack, and then the Covid lockdown this year, further exacerbated anxiety.

 “We are motivated to develop a natural healing environment for our Tamariki, where they can engage with nature while having fun and facing physical challenges. Our aim is to help reduce anxiety and assist them to heal, linking children to the conservation of the ecology and ecosystems of Rāwhiti Domain and the Canterbury coastal environment,” she says.

 Native birds, including kereru, poapapa (bellbird), tui, whakaawe (waxeye), ruru (morepork), piwakawaka (fantail), riroriro (grey warbler), whaikorero (kingfisher) and tīeke (South Island saddleback) have historically inhabited Rāwhiti Domain, though recent sightings have become scarce. Guardians of Rāwhiti Domain will plant species providing food for these native birds, plus butterflies, bees, other insects, and fungi.

 Guardians of Rāwhiti Domain is part of Eastern Community Sports and Recreation Incorporated (ECSR), an umbrella organisation for key New Brighton sports and recreation clubs. Government funding of $7 million was granted to several local initiatives this week, including $3.215 million to projects initiated by ECSR and its members.

Butterfly Park Concept


27th July: News release

Innovative Rāwhiti Domain all-weather facility nears completion with government funding

A new and innovative multi-purpose all-weather sports and recreation facility for Christchurch’s eastern suburbs will come into community use shortly, following the announcement of $7 million of government funding for several New Brighton projects this week.

Projects initiated by Eastern Community Sports and Recreation (ECSR) and the sports and recreation clubs under its umbrella were granted $3.215 million, which will be used for several improvements in and around Rāwhiti Domain.

One new ECSR facility that will be up and running for locals shortly is a high-tensile fabric canopy over the previously under-used Rāwhiti Domain tennis courts.

ECSR board member Thea Mickell said the new structure provided excellent value for money, and was the first of its kind in New Zealand.

“This building system, from Canadian company Sprung, comprises a tensioned membrane fixed to large aluminium beams. Construction began just prior to the lockdown in mid-March, was then suspended for several weeks while we were in level three and four, and was finished in early July. It was quick to complete, and provided us with excellent cost efficiency compared to what would otherwise have been a cost-prohibitive conventional structure.

“Sprung has successfully built many different structures around the world. Every other time they have sent a project manager to work with the construction team on the ground. Because of the Covid crisis, the Sprung project manager did not make it to New Zealand before the lockdown. Our local contractor, HMC Construction, instead worked alongside the Sprung project manager via Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp, from Sprung headquarters in Canada, which was a challenge at times, though ultimately successful,” she said.

ECSR is now in the process of reconstructing the base of the courts; laying a synthetic turf surface; and fencing and floodlighting the new facility. Thea Mickell says the canopy’s public opening is scheduled for September, after which it will host many users.

“We have 11 sports clubs and community organisations under the ECSR umbrella. The likes of tennis and netball are keen to play and train in the new facility as soon as possible. Our other clubs, including rugby, cricket, athletics, softball and baseball will also benefit hugely for targeted training in built netted cages for projectile pitcher, catcher, bowling and batting practice, and it will be a boon for the primary school zone sports that ECSR runs each Friday through the winter involving more than 1200 local children in a wide range of different sports and recreation activities.

“In addition, the facility will be available to organisations outside ECSR. We envisage anything from trade shows, to concerts, to yoga classes being held here. We are talking to the community, and now that the new facility is near completion, are looking forward to as many different groups using it as possible,” she said.

Funding for the canopy construction has included grants from the Rātā Foundation ($400,000), the Lotteries Communities Facilities Fund ($400,000), New Zealand Community Trust ($275,000), the Christchurch Casino ($13,000) and Christchurch City Council’s Capital Endowment Fund grant ($172,500).

 ECSR is one of several sport club partnerships throughout New Zealand, created to make it easier for sports and recreation organisations to operate more effectively. It comprises rugby, softball, netball, cricket, athletics, tennis, waka ama and baseball clubs, while the Guardians of Rāwhiti, Eastern Hobbies Workshop and New Brighton Menz Shed are also affiliated.

 Sprung, based in Calgary and Utah, is a 123-year-old Canadian company that initially began making tents and covered wagons. Since diversifying into permanent structures, it has constructed approximately 12,500 buildings in over 130 countries. Designed and engineered to high specifications, open-span column-free Sprung buildings have been proven in climates around the world in thousands of applications ranging from church buildings to military barracks, event centres to arenas, and aircraft hangars to mining camp buildings.

 ECSR’s Rāwhiti Domain canopy is the first Sprung structure in New Zealand, though the company has fielded interest from several other projects elsewhere in the country.

Government funding granted to several local initiatives this week includes $3.215 million to projects initiated by ECSR and its members, as follows:

  • Rāwhiti Domain Canopy

Transformation of Rāwhiti Domain’s netball and tennis courts will create a ground-breaking, modern all-weather purpose-made floodlit facility to meet the local community’s diverse sports and recreation needs.

Granted: $1,405,000 (towards a total project budget of $2,665,000)

  • Eastern Hub

A foundation member of ECSR, New Brighton Rugby Football Club is reconfiguring its 70 year old club rooms, making it more welcoming for the wider community for social and community events and celebrations. Several improvements are also planned to Rāwhiti Domain’s sports fields, including re-orientation of rugby grounds to improve drainage.

Granted: $816,000 (towards a total project budget of $1,241,000)

  • Guardians of Rāwhiti

ECSR member Guardians of Rāwhiti will create a monarch butterfly and native bird sanctuary on Rāwhiti Domain, bringing native species back to the area, while incorporating a 1.7 hectare natural woodland play space with an education centre emphasising the ecology of the domain and the Canterbury coast.

Granted: $580,000 (full funding of this project)

  • South Brighton Tennis Club

ECSR member South Brighton Tennis Club has five courts and clubrooms that require upgrading and earthquake repair to adequately meet growing demand from the club’s expanding membership. 

Granted: $413,689 (towards a total project budget of $533,698) 

Total funding: $3.215 million, for projects with a total budget of $5.02 million

In addition, several other New Brighton projects also received funding assistance, to a total of $7 million. 

See more information about the other projects here:

multi purpose rawhiti domain image ii

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