The blurred tones of “Auld Land Syne” seem a distant memory as we race through the second month of the 2013 year and settle back into the regular routines of our daily lives after the summer holiday period. For the Dunedin Amenities Society 2013 ushers in the reality that our organisation is to celebrate its 125th year of operation and that brings a further level of reflection for the coming year. To reach such a milestone for any organisation is a significant achievement that the Society can be justifiably proud. However, with any milestone there needs to be critical self-examination of the future of the Society. This is essential so that it can continue to grow and utilise the experience and knowledge of its members for the continued advocacy and conservation of Dunedin’s environment, landscape and natural heritage. So while the Society might celebrate and reflect on its achievements, it must use that reflection to ensure that its message continues to be heard as it has for the last 125 years.
In the midst of the Society’s celebration it appears that Dunedin is at a fiscal and philosophical crossroads, with pressure on the city’s management of its economic, social and environmental assets. Those pressures have not been improved by a deep sense of division and dissatisfaction in our community. The public’s perception of a lack of transparency and sound management in financial and governance matters has created a high level of uncertainty over the city’s future. Sadly, this has become very damaging for our city and our community. As we approach the 2013 Annual Plan the Society looks anxiously at the areas of landscape, recreation, conservation and heritage matters which undoubtedly will be affected by the current economic climate.
Not that just the financial deliberations of the Annual Plan are the only area of concern in the governance of these areas in our city. The 6 year debate over the use of the John Wilson Drive Reserve was a strong indication to the Society of the divided and muddled thinking around the Council table in regards to the value of conservation and reserve land in Dunedin. The descent of the issue into a popularity contest amid a fog of confusion that Councillors appear to be under does not bode well for the need to nurture, enhance and ultimately restore open space areas for the benefit of the public and biodiversity. The Society can only hope that the fog of misconception will have lifted when issues like the proposed use of the Town Belt for car-parking at Moana Pool or future changes in the District Plan are considered by the City Council. The Society will certainly be casting a critical eye over those issues in 2013 along with many others that arise in Dunedin. The advantage of being New Zealand’s oldest conservation organisation is having deep resources of memory and experience to call upon and 2013 looks as though they will be needed.