The Town Belt is surrounded with schools and its long been an ambition of the Society to get those schools and their teachers involved with the reserve. Over the last few months the Society have been working with the Department of Conservation, Dunedin City Council, and the Otakou & Puketeraki Runanga to develop an education programme based on the values of the Town Belt. Part of this process has been to invite teachers from schools to get inspired by the Town Belt by well-known bug man Rudd Kleinpaste.
Rudd who was in Dunedin for Conservation Week 2016, gave the invited teachers some inspiring ideas for teaching children about nature. He challenged their thinking about teaching science and conservation as well offering his insight on the possibilities of the area. The education programme is an exciting development for the reserve and the Society hopes it will create a new generation of young people to become stewards and guardians of this very special area of our city.
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.
The first week of spring is a great time to shrug of the winter blues and get back into the outdoors again. The Society is undertaking a guiding tour of Craigieburn on Sunday 11th September starting at 10.30. There will be an opportunity to look at some of the artifacts from the archaeological work undertaken on the site and learn more about the use of the area as a Scottish subsistence farm. The walk through the mature rimu forest to see some of the 700 year old giants is one of the highlights. The walk is relatively easy and suitable for people of all ages. So come on along and embrace your pioneer spirit at Craigieburn.
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
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.
Drive around Dunedin in the spring and Les Cleveland’s contribution to the city is evident in many of our most public places. His energy and drive to beautify Dunedin and provide people with pleasure is instantly recognisable in the thousands of daffodils that he donated and planted here. It was a great pleasure for the Society to contribute with Rotary in creating a fitting memorial to Les in a picturesque area of the Town Belt adjacent to Olveston. The new memorial and seat was unveiled by the Mayor and it was pleasing to see Les’ wife Margaret and family present at the unveiling. With it a being a glorious spring day the gathering enjoyed a cup of tea in the Olveston garden, and in a such a picturesque setting you couldn’t help but think that Les would have approved.
Recently the Dunedin City Council called for submissions on the potential sites for the proposed new pool in Mosgiel. Despite people’s views on whether a pool is actually needed in Mosgiel the selection of sites for the pool is a contentious issue. The selection of four sites was provided in the Council’s consultation information, one was the existing pool site and the other three were variations on occupying part of Mosgiel Memorial Gardens. The frustrating part of this consultation process is that there was no indication of the actual footprint of the new pool facility, only a dot on the proposed position of the pool. So there was no way of actually knowing what the scale or shape of the impact of the pool placement on the gardens was going to be.
In the residential Mosgiel area, passive use open space and formal play areas are actually at a premium despite its proximity to rural land and the townships rural outlook. Public sports grounds and the walking area alongside the Silverstream make up the bulk of active recreational areas, while school grounds also play a significant area in this evaluation. The proposed pool development would take up a significant portion of the Gardens site especially when seen together with the provision of parking, access and plant development for the pools operation. Other effects would include the removal of significant trees from the reserve which would have a negative effect on the parks ambiance, landscape heritage and biodiversity values.
For these reasons the Dunedin Amenities Society submitted that it does not support the placement of the proposed pool on the Mosgiel Memorial Gardens. The effects on open space, passive recreation, recreational play and landscape values associated with the site are extremely high in a community where such space is limited. The Society also submitted that it does not support the large-scale loss of amenity trees from the Gardens which have given pleasure to the community for many years. The Society has suggested that if a pool is to be built, then the existing site will have the least negative effect on the area, dependent on the design that the project developers create. One thing that has not been considered is whether the pool should or could encroach on the adjacent Mosgiel Caravan Park which is on Council land. There has been debate about this facility before, perhaps its time to consider that debate again in lieu of the pool proposal.
Two other issues came up in this consultation which are worth comment. The first was that if the existing pool site was used for a new pool that Mosgiel will be without a pool for 18 months while construction is undertaken. However, the inconvenience of short-term loss of the facility is equally matched by the long-term gain of a new facility should the capital be raised. Mosgiel and its environs have school pools and the availability of Moana Pool with 15-20 minutes’ drive of the area. Many other communities are without a pool facility and all manage adequately by using alternative facilities within their communities or the city on a permanent basis. The other issue is the notion that building the proposed pool in the current location would make it prone to flooding. There seems to be no evidence from the Otago Regional Council’s flood protection scheme that the existing pool site is prone or endangered by potential flooding. Currently the Silverstream has existing stop banks and if a flood breached them Mosgiel would have a lot more to worry about than the pool being flooded. It would seem more sensible to work with the Otago Regional Council during the design phase of the project to ensure any risk of flooding is mitigated. This would allow development of the pool on the existing site without the need to use the valuable open space and landscape values of Mosgiel Memorial Gardens.