For three days Craigieburn was alive with the excitement and chatter of the Pakiki Kids visiting the site and learning more about its history as a special place in Dunedin’s cultural and biodiversity heritage. Pakiki Kids is a weekly extension programme for intellectually and creatively gifted children in Dunedin from Years 3-8. The programme is governed and managed by Dunedin North Intermediate School. Under the supervision of teacher Brendan Christie, Society President Paul Pope and faithful canine mascot Toby the group looked at the archaeology, history and biodiversity of the Craigieburn site. It was a hands on opportunity to get out into the bush and feel the atmosphere of Craigieburn. With such a youthful and enthusiastic group the questions and queries came thick and fast. Luckily Brendan and Paul were well supported by a number of parents and of course had all of the answers! Great visit Pakiki Kids.
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).
The Society hosted the year 5&6 classes from Portobello School at Craigieburn today. The group walked through Ross Creek and up to Craigieburn as part of their school camp. While they were there they cleared part of the stone floor from the old barn/roadway on the main track. During their excavations nothing of any significance was found, but there was enough anticipation to keep everyone busy. Thankfully the weather cleared for Portobello School to enjoy their lunch at the byre site before making the trek through Ross Creek.
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.
Having your 21st usually involves an extensive party, but a 21st of a different kind was held at Craigieburn in a much quieter and more productive way. Today’s planting by Otago Polytechnic Horticulture students is the 21st year that the Society and the Polytechnic have planted trees on the reserve since 1994. In that time more than 13,000 native trees have been planted and 600 horticulture students have participated in this vital work at Craigieburn. Today’s planting in bright sunshine represents a significant achievement for everyone involved in Craigieburn and once again the students showed their skill and dedication to the Craigieburn cause. (click in pictures to view in full size).
Over 20 year ten girls from Otago Girls High School undertook the first Project Gold planting in the Town Belt on Tuesday 11th August. The Amenities Society, Department of Conservation and the Town Belt reserve manager the Dunedin City Council have entered into a partnership to plant more Kowhai in the reserve. The Society will fund 5 years of planting valued at $7,500 in areas around the Town Belt. The Kowhai is an iconic tree that provides valuable feeding opportunities for many native bird species, including the Tui and Bellbird. This years planting in Drivers Road should create a welcome additional area of trees that will enhance the visual and biodiversity quality of the area. It was a frosty start for the pupils, but once they got into their work they quickly warmed up. The planting was also an opportunity for the Society to celebrate as close as possible to to the traditional day of Arbor Day in New Zealand on August the 8th. Well done girls and many thanks to Kevin and the team from Delta, Shirley & Gordon from DCC Parks, John Barkla from DoC and Ribbonwood Nurseries for supplying the trees. This is a great start for Project Gold in our city, well done everyone. (Click on pictures to enlarge)
The ink on the Dunedin City Council’s 2015 Long Term Plan is nearly dry for yet another year and undoubtedly there will be some winners and losers in the community. Annually the Dunedin Amenities Society fronts up to the City Council to promote the values and landscape of the city seeking reassurances that funding won’t be lost or reduced. The other aspect of the Society’s submissions over the years has been the worrying trend of declining standards around, litter, vandalism and general maintenance of the many parks and public spaces reserves enjoyed by the community. In some regards taking similar concerns to the Council each year is a little soul-destroying because of the realisation that it’s almost like a broken record. However, as an organisation the Society have an obligation to act as a voice of advocacy for these issues because of their importance in our community and in the wider recognition of the values of Dunedin.
The Society’s 2015 submission focused very strongly around the growing interest from the public in the two Town Belt Traverse events that it has undertaken in 2013 and 2015. The idea of creating the Traverse into a permanent interpretative trail has strong appeal. The recreational, heritage and conservation benefits has positive spin-offs for the community and the tourist economy, as well as an opportunity to link social institutions such as Toitu, Moana Pool and Olveston. However, without investment in basic management and maintenance of the tracks and footpaths in the Town Belt the project is likely to stall and founder. Simply put, recreational and commuter walking access is essential to the project and improvements to these assets are imperative to make the Traverse usable and an enjoyable visitor experience. The Society highlighted these issues which are in most cases are no more than minor works in a presentation to Councillors at the Long Term Plan hearings and this can be viewed here. Amenities Society LTP Presentation. A full copy of the society’s submission can also be read here. Amenities Society Submission Annual Plan 2015