This week Craigieburn had a visit from some budding naturalists, explorers and outdoor adventurers. The Fantail Trails are a Dunedin based nature exploration group for children ages 0 through to junior primary school. The group undertake outdoor outings for caregivers and children to explore some of the great nature spaces in Dunedin. The outdoor walks and exploration provide a social outing for caregivers and children and create opportunities for unstructured play, getting muddy and exploring at a pre-school pace. The group today took the opportunity to explore the Craigieburn forest and visit some of the heritage areas of the reserve. Great to have young children and their caregivers using Craigieburn in such a creative and interesting way.

Fantail Trails Group

Queens Drive - Dunedin Town Belt
Members of the Southern Heritage Trust enjoyed a guided tour of the Dunedin Town Belt with Society member Paul Pope on Sunday 2nd of March. The 5.2 kilometre walk from Unity Park to the Clear at Prospect Park was an opportunity to view and discuss historic areas of the Town Belt and its environs and their importance to the history of Dunedin. The group viewed:

  • The old High Street school important to Society co-founder Alexander Bathgate’s foundation of Arbor Day in NZ.
  • Jubilee Park – an important area for the foundation of the Society, temporary mining camp and site of the stream Toitu.
  • The construction of Maori Road
  • The tramway through Robin Hood Park
  • Dunedin’s first cemetery at York Place/Arthur Street, the use of the area for barracks and an asylum
  • The site of Sir John Roberts house at Roberts Park above Moana Pool
  • The influence of Thomson on the area of the Town Belt around Olveston
  • The Clear at Prospect Park and the memorial to the poet Charles Brasch

The Society and the Southern Heritage Trust have a great deal in common and on a fine autumn morning the walk was a great opportunity to connect and discuss area’s of historical and heritage interest. It’s positive to see other groups in Dunedin share the Society’s belief that the Town Belt is not only a unique landscape and biodiversity area but an important historic and heritage area.

Southern Heritage Trust members at "The Clear"

Craigieburn RimuThe development of a pilot education programme with Toitu – Otago Settlers Museum is a great opportunity to bring the Craigieburn story to a new and young audience. As an organisation the Dunedin Amenities Society has a role in providing opportunities for learning with a view to developing the future landscape, environmental and heritage stewards of the future. That’s a mantle we should be prepared to pass onto others not as a burden but as a pleasure and privilege. With the development of the partnership programme we’ll see 300 children visit Craigieburn this term and they’ll experience hands on what colonial life was like in the forests of nineteenth century Dunedin. Importantly too, they’ll be able to learn more about the unique conservation legacy that Craigieburn has with its rich rimu forest. This programme will also bring teachers and parents into contact with Craigieburn and the values of the Society and hopefully that will inspire them to explore the City, their roots and our environment further.

This is an exciting opportunity for the Society, Toitu and the City Council to create a strong partnership that adds value to our community and one of Dunedin’s really special places.

Read the Otago Daily Times article here…

Copy of DSC04418Trees in the urban context perform a vital function for the health and welfare of city’s across the world. Dunedin is not alone in the vital environmental and aesthetic services that they provide in the city landscape. In fact to some extent trees are often undervalued for the essential biological services that they provide that enhance to both human and biodiversity health. Such ecological services include creating biodiversity corridors,  reducing water run off, and absorbing carbon dioxide . Importantly too, is their physical impact on the urban landscape where they soften the hard edges of human design and architecture in city’s where our opportunity to converse with the natural world may be limited. This landscape impact of where trees improve physical amenity in suburban streetscapes can actually in turn increase the value of peoples property. How many times in real estate advertising do we see comments regarding “leafy suburbs” or “awake to hear the birdsong” which are accompanied with a hefty  price tag. Urban trees have a significant impact on our lives and our lifestyle and their importance to Dunedin should not be underestimated.

The Dunedin Amenities Society has recently reviewed and submitted to the NZ Transport Agency on the proposed “Separated Cycle Lane Proposal” for the Cumberland one way system. While there has been much public debate over the cost of this project in relation to need and safety, there has been scant discussion on the removal of many of the street trees with this project. Many of the trees in the Cumberland Street area have taken years to establish and will face the axe with the implementation of this project in either of its forms. The proposal along with the paucity of information on the impact of such removals shows a poor understanding of our city’s urban environment and the need to provide aesthetic and biological connections to the wider city landscape. Surely now is the time to show the world some innovation that reflects how we value and understand the physical world we rely upon. As environmentalist David Suzuki wrote “ultimately we need to recognize that while humans continue to build urban landscapes, we share these spaces with other species.”

Read the full submission here…

SONY DSCIt was with an immediate eye on the skies above on Sunday morning that members of the Society started their day. With all of the planning and worrying seeing it dawn beautifully fine and clear took away any of those feelings of apprehension. This was our big day to share and celebrate with Dunedin the Amenities Society’s 125th Anniversary, and what a day it turned out to be. With over 520 people undertaking the Traverse it was great to see the many happy faces that enjoyed exploring one of Dunedin’s very special places.  The Traverse attracted a broad mixture of people of all ages and the fine conditions allowed the Town Belt to really shine.

The five stopping points all proved a welcome respite for walkers with something of interest at each point. There were snow dogs at Byrd’s Unity Park Antarctic monument, cable car enthusiasts at the tramway site in Robin Hood Park, the cool elegance of the grounds of Olveston and some inspirational poetry at Charles Brasch’s site “The Clear” at Prospect Park. None of these things would have been possible without the generosity of many people who gave up their time to keep people safe, informed and entertained. To all of those people the Society’s sincere thanks for your time and energy. All of these areas added to experience and understanding of the Town Belt and made our anniversary a day to remember.

Planting of the anniversary Kahikatea treeAt the Woodhaugh Gardens finish line participants were able to relax, enjoy their lunch and reflect on their achievement of a walk well done. This was also the opportunity for a short speech from the Society’s Chairman Robin Hyndman and a welcome piece of anniversary cake. It was also an opportunity for our youngest participants to plant a Kahikatea tree in the Woodhaugh grounds. This is particularly important for the Society as we think of the future of the Town Belt, our city and our organisation. We must cultivate a new generation of young people who are passionate about Dunedin and its environment.  As Society co-founder Alexander Bathgate once said “If you plant trees you do an unselfish act. The benefits are not yours alone, but are in a measure common to all. You are not likely to see the trees you plant attain, their full strength and beauty. You are then, not working for yourselves, but for others, including those who are to come after you, and are doing a generous and public-spirited action.” With the numbers of young people and children we saw on Sunday the Society is heartened that this new generation will take up that challenge.

The Town Belt Traverse was a resounding success and an event that could become part of the regular calendar. It celebrates not just an old an venerable organisation like the Dunedin Amenities Society but one of the great reserve areas of our city. Something that we in Dunedin should cherish and be proud of because it defines our city, our landscape and our heritage. Thank you to all who participated and created a great day for the Society and themselves. The pictures below are from Antony Hamel, click on the pictures for gallery view

Town Belt TraverseThe Dunedin Amenities Society is celebrating its 125th anniversary and is going to celebrate by returning to the roots of its foundation with the Town Belt Traverse.

The traverse is a 7.9 km walk through the Town Belt from the Southern cemetery finishing at Woodhaugh Gardens on Sunday 3rd November. The route is a pram friendly event for people of all ages stopping off at five points along the way. The Participants will receive a map and ticket at the old morgue building next to the Southern Cemetery. The traverse starts at between 10-10.30 am and all participants must complete the traverse by 1.30. Collect a stamp at all five marshal points and you can be eligible for some great local  prizes.

The Dunedin Town Belt is one of New Zealand’s oldest reserves and plays a special part in the physical and historic landscape  of Dunedin. It has a rich history  that dates back to the planning of Dunedin before settlers arrived here in 1848. The Town Belt covers 203 hectares and includes the two historic cemeteries and the Botanic Gardens. With its extensive parkland and forest remnants it creates a green corridor through the heart of the city.

Today the Town Belt is an important recreational and ecological asset for the city and provides invaluable habitat  for kereru, bellbird, tomtit, tui, rifleman, morepork, and shining cuckoo. The vegetation is an eclectic mix of exotics that dominates the southern area of the ‘belt to the more kanuka and fuchsia dominated ridges and gullies of the northern areas. At Woodhaugh an old stand of kahikatea remains as a reminder of a significant wetland forest that once stood there.

For the Dunedin Amenities Society the protection and enhancement of the Town Belt was the beginning of its foundation in 1888. The Society was founded through the energy of Thomas Brown and Alexander Bathgate to protect, enhance and promote Dunedin’s landscape and biodiversity. The Town Belt Traverse is your opportunity to explore through a self guided walk one of New Zealand’s great reserve sites.


Traverse Highlights

  • The outstanding views from Admiral Byrd’s lookout at Unity Park
  • Walking through Jubilee Park (Thomlinson’s Paddock) the site of the foundation of the Society and a  temporary camp for miners on their way to the goldfields
  • Serpentine Avenue where toitu stream once flowed
  • Learn about the old tram line running through Robin Hood Park from the High Street cable car group
  • Visit the gardens and grounds of the Olveston stately home
  • Experience the lushness of the fuchsia dominated forest of Queens Drive to Cosy Dell
  • Hear local poets perform at the Clear in honour of Charles Brasch at Prospect Park
  • Enjoy lunch at the old wetland forest remnant at Woodhaugh (Free BBQ supplied)

What to Bring

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • A warm jacket (you won’t need it because it’ll be warm and sunny!)
  • A drink and a snack for energy (we have a chocolate bar to get you started)
  • Your camera
  • Your inquisitive nature
  • Your friends and family (dogs on leads thanks)


Parking can found at the starting point around the Oval. You can return to your vehicle using the Normanby – St Clair bus that leaves opposite the George St entrance to Woodhaugh at approximately, 1:45, 2;45, 3:45 and goes to the Oval via the Octagon.

Check the Bus timetable here….

This event is free and open to anyone wanting to enjoy Dunedin’s best kept secrets. We have a selection of great prizes from local venues around the city. So take this opportunity to visit the Town Belt, get some fresh air and exercise and enjoy wonderful part of your city.

Check out the Route

Use the map to find were the Town Belt Traverse  starts and finishes. You can change from a map view to an aerial view and navigate using the toolbar on the map. Good luck and we look forward to seeing you at the Traverse.

Otago Polytechnic Horticulture students spent a day planting native trees and shrubs at Craigieburn recently. The planting was the 19th year of the planting project by the Polytechnic Horticulture students at the Craigieburn Reserve. The planting was a continuation of the last three years work strengthening the bush line along the central paddock.

Otago Polytechnic Horticulture students began planting native trees in the 1.5 acre grassy open paddock on the western boundary of Craigieburn in 1994, and after 9 years of hard work the paddock planting was completed. The totara, rimu, miro and matai have shown phenomenal growth and through the students work a new piece of sustaining native forest cover has been created. Otago Polytechnic Course Co-ordinator Lisa Burton and Craigieburn Project Manager Paul Pope were able to show the current students the positive impact that the preceding students have had on the reserve over the last 19 years.

The Amenities Society takes great enjoyment in hosting the students and staff at Craigieburn, as their enthusiasm and energy is uplifting and inspiring. The project also serves an important purpose in the preparation of the students towards their horticultural qualifications. These will hopefully inspire them in their own projects, future studies and employment in the horticulture industry. On behalf of the Dunedin Amenities Society our thanks for your efforts to make our site a great success.


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Students and tutors from the Otago Polytechnic Arboriculture course spent three days at Craigieburn undertaking some essential work on the reserve’s trees. The students removed deadwood and damaged branches from the large macrocarpa shelter belt in the main paddock. The programme is the second year of three-year partnership between the Otago Polytechnic and the Craigieburn Committee where the site is used for training purposes. Craigieburn Project Manager Paul Pope asked the students to put their climbing skills to the test and inspect some of the rimu canopies while he bravely gave words of encouragement from the forest floor. The trees range in age with the oldest being around 550 years old and the students inspected the trees for wind damage, disease and rot. Around 16 of the 52 rimu were climbed and in general all were in good condition. So we may get at least another 300-350 years from these wonderful trees. Otago Polytechnic Arboriculture tutor Matt Miller said that getting the chance to climb such old native trees in an urban context was a rare and an important opportunity for the students to experience. It was a real pleasure to have the students utilise their skills at Craigieburn and we look forward to having them back next year. Click on the pictures below for viewer.


ouroboros (Photo credit: vaXzine)

The continued debate over the process of selection of art in public places continues with the recent furore over the selection of Julia Morison’s giant worm sculpture, Ouroboros at the Botanic Gardens.  With local artists including the Otago Sculpture Trust claiming the request for proposal process was unfair and poorly managed. There has been consistent pattern of controversy and outcry that has dogged the placement of artworks in public places in Dunedin over recent years. Rachael Rakena’s “Haka Peepshow” in the Octagon, Regan Gentry’s “The Harbour Mouth Molars” at Portsmouth Drive and now the proposed “Ouroboros” in the Botanic Gardens have all had controversy surrounding their design, placement and funding. The debate around the process of selection of public art works is very damaging for the creation of  vibrant public spaces and for artists in the city.

In August 2012 the Dunedin City Council slashed its public-place art works budget and new works are on hold until the art in public places policy is reviewed. Yet that review has been oddly quiet and nothing has been made public as to when that policy will be reviewed or how. Recently in the Otago Daily Times Mayor Cull challenged critics of the selection of “Ouroboros” to come up with a better process if they did not like the outcome. That’s less of a challenge to the art loving Dunedin public and more of one to the Council’s own failings in the procedures and policy relating to art in public places. If anything can be learned from many of the controversies surrounding public art works it’s the Council’s inability to provide a meaningful policy that has caused such an outcry. That’s the real challenge which unfortunately has yet to be taken up by the City Council.

The Dunedin Amenities Society have long supported the notion of art in public places and monumental structures that tell the story of our city and its culture. They add meaning and character to our city that is of benefit to the community and to visitors. It seems a great shame that while the Botanic Gardens is celebrating 150 years of bringing pleasure to many people, the focus is on the argument of how art work should be selected to honour those celebrations.

Other Society Articles on Art in Public Places in Dunedin

Art Ache or Tooth Ache in Dunedin?  

Art at the Heart of the City

St Clair 1880'sThe recent damage of the sea wall at St Clair Esplanade is a pertinent reminder of the power and ferocity of the ocean and the continuation of an issue that has been prominent in Dunedin since the beginnings of colonial settlement. The extension of physical occupation of coastal areas by people and the development of infrastructure around that occupation has been fraught with problems. Worse still has been the undermining of the important protection afforded to the city by the St Clair and St Kilda beach areas.

The first sea wall built at St Clair was in the early 1870’s and appears to have been privately built, eventually being transferred to the ownership of the Caversham Borough Council. In 1885 the wall was badly damaged during a period of high seas and the Caversham Borough Council began rebuilding the wall in 1888. As with today there was considerable debate over the merits of the construction by amateur and professional engineers alike. So problematic was the rebuilding of the wall that the Minister of Public Works inspected the works himself. The Caversham Mayor Mr Bragg appears to have had a hand in the design and construction supervision himself which was described as “a sloping bank, terminating in a wall six feet wide at the base, which is sunk in the hard sand to the depth of five feet, being quite four feet lower than the foundation of the old wall. This wall has a facing of very large and weighty stones on both sides. The centre built up of smaller ones tightly wedged and closed in with rubble. At the foot of the embankment this solid wall is backed up with rotten reef, which gives the whole structure great solidity.”

However that solidity did not last and by 1890 it was reported that the 630 feet wall built for £800 ” has all but been demolished by the sea, with the exception of 80 feet at its west, and even this portion is considerably disturbed and undermined.”Several design flaws were reported by marine engineer CY O’Connor , notably that it had been placed too far out to sea and that its foundations were “too low.” Worse was to come, when in 1891 a significant storm did considerable damage to the whole Ocean Beach area. Further storms occurred in May 1898 when the dunes themselves were breached and there was 3 feet of water in Larkworthy Street. By May 11th 1898 much  of St Kilda between Ocean Beach and Cargill’s Road were inundated and houses could only be accessed by wading through water. In July 1898 the sea breached the dunes again and St Kilda was saturated with the Pacific Ocean.

Public acrimony and outrage was vitriolic and both the Otago Daily Times and Otago Witness were inundated with letters between 1890-1900 regarding the erosion and management of the Esplanade and Ocean Beach Domain. One of the central problems lay in determining the responsibility for management of the issues between the various local councils and central government. A deputation by Mayor and Councillors of Caversham Borough Council to the Minister of Public Works in 1890 requesting government assistance was made. Caversham was particularly concerned at the level of borrowing it had been forced to undertake in dealing with the Esplanade issues. In 1891 Richard Seddon also visited the area and if the Caversham Borough Councillors were hoping for government assistance they were to be sadly disappointed. Seddon told the deputation “If you think for a moment that this Government are going in for extravagant expenditure, all I can say is that you will be disappointed. We are going to govern this country on commercial lines, and be very careful of the people’s cash.”

The passing of the Ocean Beach Public Domain Act in 1892 provided for the protection and conservation of the area known as the “sand hills”. However, this was a period of deep public acrimony and recrimination and coupled with a lack of funding was largely ineffectual. In 1894 the Board were allowed to raise funding through levying rates of a halfpenny in the pound for rateable properties in all of the city’s boroughs. However, there was catch, and the rates could only be levied by a public referendum. The Ocean Beach Domain Board largely took extensive steps to re-vegetate the sand dunes and construct sand trap fences to repair the dune barrier and protect the city. However, the problematic issue of the St Kilda Esplanade remained.

By 1910-1911 both the Domain Board and the City Council had received advice on options for the reconstruction of the esplanade. The Domain Board had not been able to reconstruct the esplanade because of a shortage of funds and had been too afraid to levy higher rates on ratepayers in fear of the reception they would have received, However, the Dunedin city Council received £1000 from the government to proceed with reconstruction and utilised a further £1000 from the Tramways Department and £1000 from the municipal account. The rebuilt esplanade was officially opened in 1913 and the construction was described as having “333 reinforced’ concrete piles 2ft wide, 44 piles 1 ft wide, and 36 anchor piles—a total of 413 piles, and if these were placed end to end they would stretch one mile and a-half. After being sunk and. driven into the solid they were driven further by an electric pile-driver. The length of the piles was from 18ft to 24ft, and they were driven to a depth of from 9ft to 19ft. The wall was anchored every 10ft with 1 inch rods 35ft long, cased in mortar to prevent rusting. Safety was assured first by the position of the work being beyond mean high-water mark, and any waves that reached it would be broken and rendered harmless by means of an apron of loose rock, more of which had yet to be placed in position. The length of the esplanade was 10 chains (200 metres) and its width  50ft, with footpaths on the land and sea sides.”

In 1914 almost all of the sand immediately in front of the wall at St Clair beach disappeared and this was repeated to a greater extent in 1919, 1935, 1939 into the high erosional period of the 1990’s. Erosion of the beach and the dunes has become a regular historical and present day feature of both the beach and dunes immediately east of the wall. This has largely been due to the “end wall effects” where once waves reach the wall it “bounces” off them with more energy than a wave washing back off a normal sand beach.  More sand is carried off shore, promoting beach loss. Seawalls, harden the coast and reduce its  ability to adjust naturally exacerbating erosional problems by reflecting and concentrating wave  energy and erosion.

Dunedin’s various local authorities have struggled for the last 140 years to manage the coastal issues at St Clair and St Kilda. Sadly, it is a historical record of failure to understand the natural processes of the dune and coastal environment that affects the coastline that we perilously live beside. Perhaps this latest failure is an opportunity to rectify that understanding and restore the coastal environment to ensure its long term functionality as an ecological asset that provides both protection and pleasure for our city. The problems with the wall and the wider erosion issues of Ocean Beach Domain cannot be dealt with in isolation, but must be integrated into a programme that deals with the coastal environment as a living entity rather than as an engineered solution. That may also mean making changes to our thinking and use of this area in the long term. History has shown our failures let’s hope that we don’t continue that trend.

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