It was with considerable concern that the Society read of the plight of two of the trees growing in Anzac avenue. The Avenue trees are an important landscape and heritage feature of the city that dates back to the work of prominent New Zealand architect Edmund Anscombe and the development of the 1925-1926 New Zealand and South Seas International Exhibition.
Edmund Anscombe was an important figure in the architectural and town planning industry at both a local and national level. His architectural legacy is still visible today at the University of Otago, Girls High School and the Star building which are prominent in Dunedin’s built heritage. For the Dunedin Exhibition Anscombe drew both inspiration and experience from the 1907 Christchurch Exhibition and other overseas exhibitions that left no permanent reminder of the event on the host city. With the reclamation of Logan Park, the creation of the Old Art Gallery and the tree-lined Anzac Avenue Anscombe created a living legacy of the Exhibition that also broadened the amenity, recreational and landscape value of the city. His vision was to create urban landscape linkages between the Exhibition space at Logan Park and the Railway Station and the central city. This is why from an urban planning and landscape perspective the Anzac Avenue trees are so historically important in the Dunedin context.
The recent article in the Otago Daily Times regarding the health of two historic elm trees in Anzac Avenue raises real concerns for the protection of heritage and historic status trees in the Dunedin urban landscape. It is imperative that any such construction activity near heritage trees must be expertly managed, mitigated and monitored by the City Council, otherwise our landscape heritage will be lost. The Society can only despair at Council Planning staff stating that “the roading work on Anzac Ave was carried out in accordance with the plan.” Clearly, the trees have been affected by the construction of the new realignment in this area, that is unacceptable. The Society can only hope that the Council’s Parks Department and its arboricultural experts can rectify the problem so that these trees are saved from destruction.
The St Martin Island Community are a dedicated group of individuals who have been responsible for the management of the conservation and heritage values of Quarantine Island in Otago Harbour. Quarantine Island has a rich history from its early Maori beginnings as an important Kai Tahu fishing area named Kamau Taurua until becoming Dunedin’s main Quarantine station from the halcyon days of the Otago gold rush until the early twentieth century. As a quarantine station many Otago immigrants recovered here from typhoid, scarlet fever and other diseases after their long sea voyages from Europe. Some people never recovered, and died on the island and the graves of those unfortunate people lie in the island’s cemetery on the southern side of the island.
The Island Community group recently wrote to the Society seeking financial support for the development of better pedestrian access from the jetty on the northern side of the island. Society committee member and website editor Paul Pope who lives at Portobello and knows the island well suggested that a “field trip” was required to look at the proposal. Chairman Robin Hyndman and committee member Mick Field agreed, and like Jerome K Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat” they took the short boat trip from the University Marine Laboratory over to the Island on Sunday 6th of May. They met with Island resident/caretaker Francine Vella and looked at the details of the access proposal. They also spent time looking at the forest revegetation project, restoration of the historical married quarters building, and exploring and enjoying the panoramic views that the island provides.
The St Martin Island Community provides important opportunities for schools, community groups and many other organisations to utilise the accommodation on the island for retreats, contemplation and active learning. As both a scenic destination and a community facility the Island is an important asset to the city that links social and community needs with the restoration and conservation of our city’s heritage and environment. The Society was pleased to be able to offer the St Martin Community the $3000 of funding to upgrade its pedestrian access so as to improve the opportunities and values that the Island provides to the city.