Edmund Anscombe and the Anzac Avenue Trees
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.