The Town Belt as a Classroom

More than 70 student leaders, parents and link teachers undertook a guided walk through the beautiful Dunedin Town Belt on Sunday 18th February as part of the student led Town Belt Education Initiative. With a welcome from the Mayor, the group undertook an  8.5  kilometre walk from Woodhaugh Gardens to the Southern Cemetery. Along the way the group heard short presentations from a range of experts  in history, heritage, biodiversity, ecology and communication.

The Town Belt Education Initiative is a collaborative partnership between the Amenities Society, Department of Conservation, Otakou & Puketeraki Runaka, the Dunedin City Council and schools. The aim of the project is to develop a student led education programme using the Town Belt as backdrop, laboratory and classroom.  There are no limitations on the potential of the project in many curriculum areas including science, art, language, history and technology. The walk on Sunday was to give students and teachers inspiration and ideas about how the Town Belt can be part of their learning. It is also an opportunity for students to show leadership and to become the future stewards of this very special place in Dunedin.

A great deal of credit in the running of this project must go to Claudia Babirat, who has the task of coordinating the various aspects of this project together for the Society and its partners. As more schools come on board with the initiative we hope that the project will grow and we will see new and exciting developments evolve from the students. (Click on the pictures to view in a larger format)

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Craigieburn Rimu – How Old Are They?

Rimu ring prepared for counting

Recently the Society have been wondering what age the 52 mature rimu trees are at Craigieburn. It’s a very common question asked by visitors to the site and one that is difficult to answer with any real certainty. Recently as part of the project the trees were mapped with GPS technology to enable mapping of the physical changes to the vegetation brought about by colonial occupation. While undertaking the mapping project the girth of the rimu trees were measured. Using some comparable growth data from other bush areas the ages of the trees was estimated at between 250 and 550 years old. However, the issue with this data is that it comes from studies undertaken outside of the Dunedin ecological district where climatic conditions are quite different from what we experience here in Dunedin. 

The best way to age a tree is to count the growth rings, but in order to do this it has to be felled first so that the cut edge can be examined. The second method is to bore a hole with a core sampler and count the rings from the core sample. This has obvious risks to the health of the tree through moisture and bacteria getting into the core sampling hole. Ten or twelve years ago a significant rimu tree was struck by lightning in the water catchment land below Flagstaff. The rural fire officer at the time made the difficult decision to cut the tree down in order to extinguish the burning upper canopy and the tree lay undisturbed in the bush ever since that fateful lightning strike. The Society did not want to harm any trees in trying find a better way to age the rimu so it approached the City Council to see whether a log could be cut from the felled tree in the catchment land. They agreed with conditions that the information from the analysis would be provided to other organisations who were interested in similar projects. With the help of Nick and Don from Asplundh a ring from the existing felled rimu was eventually procured. Sadly, the burnt rimu had suffered extensive fracture damage and was quite rotten due to moisture and huhu grubs. With the help of Taskforce Green the ring was carried down through the bush to be slowly cured and sanded so that the growth rings can be counted. 

This information will help the Society and other researchers in being able to understand the growth of rimu in the region and the results should be ready for publication early in the new year. The Society will have the ring preserved so that it can be used for environmental education, further study and public display.