August 8th has special significance for the Dunedin Amenities Society as it was the official national day of Arbor Day established by our co-founder Alexander Bathgate in 1892. Bathgate believed that in creating Arbor Day New Zealand would create future generations of people who would care about their environment, he wrote “a well-grown tree is an object of beauty, and children would become all the better men and women if they had an eye for the beautiful in nature.” The Society have continued on in that vein with its Project Gold collaboration with the Department of Conservation over the last three years. This year staff and pupils from the Carisbrook School planted around 180 native trees including the beautiful golden Kowhai at Sidey Park in Caversham. It was a pleasure to work with the pupils and to see their hard work in completing the planting on a special day for the Society. Alexander Bathgate would certainly have approved.
When you wake up early on the morning of any event you’re planning the first instinct is to check the weather, and Sunday, April 23rd did not disappoint. With a warm autumn day bathed in sunshine nearly 900 people and 100 dogs explored the 8.2 kilometre route through the Dunedin Town Belt. The Society were delighted and humbled at the massive turn out of participants for the Traverse this year. The conservation expo at the finish in Woodhaugh was also a great success for the community groups involved. This is the first time the Society have partnered the Traverse with Wild Dunedin and it was an exciting and natural fit for our city. The Society loves hosting so many families, children and participants of all ages in the Town Belt. Being able to make it a free event is very important so that we can share our love of this historic space. We have been very fortunate to receive the support of generous sponsors and volunteers to make the Traverse such a success. Its shows a real spirit in Dunedin that cares for this great reserve. So to everyone who participated, donated time and supported the Dunedin Town Belt Traverse 2017 our grateful thanks from the Dunedin Amenities Society. (Click on pictures to view in full screen).
Kavanagh College year 8 pupils were in the Town Belt at Maori Road on Monday planting trees as part of the annual Project Gold for the reserve. Nearly 30 pupils and staff planted around 200 native trees supplied from local nursery Ribbonwood Nurseries. The trees are supplied by the Dunedin Amenities Society as part of its partnership with the Department of Conservation and the Dunedin City Council and aims to increase the number of Kowhai in the Town Belt for birds. The Society has committed $7500 for five years of funding Project Gold in the city, and this is the second year of planting. Society President Paul Pope was delighted by the hard work of the pupils and the help of Department of Conservation and Delta staff. The Amenities Society has a long association with tree planting and community service and its hoped that the pupils will become the new stewards of the Town Belt. We need young people to take part and learn that conservation is about putting the spade in the ground and letting kids get their hands dirty. Great job Kavanagh. (Click on the pictures to view full size)
The Society hosted around 25 walkers, a few dogs and some visiting neighbours for the guided walk round Craigieburn today. The walk was part of the 2016 Conservation Week events in the city and nationwide. Once the low mist around Otago Harbour lifted the day was bright and fine and Craigieburn shone as it always does. There was an opportunity for the walkers to see and hear about the history of the colonial farm and the efforts of the Rankin, Tanner and Sherriff families to preserve the great rimu forest on the property. It was also an opportunity for the Society to show its vision and commitment to the heritage and conservation values of the area. After a good walk and a cup of tea the group were put to work planting some trees to celebrate Conservation Week 2016. Well done.
For the 22nd consecutive year students from the Otago Polytechnic Horticulture course were at Craigieburn planting native trees. The students took time to look over the work of the their peers and to marvel at the significance of the rimu forest on the site. With around 100 native trees planted to fill in some gaps from the previous year the students were quickly into their work. Honorary Society member and chocolate Labrador “Toby” gave plenty of encouragement. Once again, many thanks to the Polytechnic and its students for helping the Society make Craigieburn a great place to visit.
In the last 30 years our concepts of recreation, education and even the way we have fun outdoors has altered significantly. Some of those changes have been driven by our eager embracing of digital technology and the ready availability of information and entertainment in the palm of our hands. Other changes have been societal and economic factors, such as the hours we work, our concepts of risk and safety and even having the knowledge to find opportunities for outdoor recreation and play.
British film-maker and founder of The Wild Network David Bond recently presented a seminar to a range of Dunedin people involved in recreation, education and conservation. David has increasingly seen children who no longer have a direct connection to nature and who are fast losing the knowledge that previous generations had of the outdoors. Part of the reason for this has been the upsurge in the availability of television, the internet and the power of advertising creating sedentary children. With an increasing obesity epidemic in western countries including New Zealand our ability to be active and use natural spaces to play and roam in is now vital. It’s also esential that our children are able to explore nature so that we create a new generation of active conservation stewards, advocates and lovers of nature.
With David Bond the group looked at the barriers to kids connecting with nature and there were four main themes;
- Fear – for children’s safety, stranger danger, being risk adverse
- Time – parents being too busy to be able to supervise children’s outdoor play
- Space – the availability of natural areas
- Technology – the competing demands from screen-time which takes away from outdoors play.
As the seminar continued and the group looked at the Dunedin example it became clear that the same barriers to connecting children with nature were present here;
- People not knowing the value of spending time in nature
- Lack of parental time to facilitate children’s time in nature
- Lack of access to green spaces
- Parental fear
- Time-poor kids (too many competing demands such as homework, sport etc)
- A perception of ‘geeky nature’; nature-play not being cool
- Parental peer-pressure to not have ‘wild kids’
- Overzealous H&S requirements and a blame culture leading to time in nature being seen as too risky
- Lack of equipment, competency and knowledge
Dunedin is a great city, full of fantastic places to visit and play, but just how well do we promote their values and their use to the community? The Dunedin landscape has much to offer our community, but how well do we know our neighbourhood parks and reserves? By and large those places cost us nothing to use, and as David Bond suggests nature is actually free. So while there is a bounty on our doorstep, some in our community know very little about those areas and the experiences they offer. This was brought home to the Society recently when people on the 2015 Town Belt Traverse said they “didn’t know this was here!“
As an organisation the Dunedin Amenities Society have a role to play in encouraging people in the community to explore our open spaces and encourage our children to put the wild back into the wilderness.