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
One of the unheralded groups who have done so much for the community and the Dunedin Amenities Society is the Dunedin City Council sponsored Task force Green and Community Volunteers. No matter what the job this group of people are willing and able to put in the effort for the good of the community and its citizens. The Dunedin Amenities Society have had the pleasure of having many of their number undertake a range of work on its projects, always with excellent results. Well led, well organised and always willing, this group have proved invaluable in Dunedin for many years. Recently the Society had six volunteers undertake road marshaling on the Town Belt Traverse. They gave up their Sunday to help our organisation put on a great event and keep people safe. You can’t place a value on that kind of assistance, and the Society would like to publicly acknowledge the team and wish them well in all of the things they do for our great city. (Click on pictures to view in full size).
Its time to get your walking shoes on again and explore one of Dunedin’s great natural and historical landscapes. The Town Belt Traverse is an 8.2 kilometre from the Southern Cemetery to Woodhaugh Gardens taking in the heart of the Dunedin Town Belt on Sunday 29th March. The great thing about it is its absolutely free!
The route is a pram friendly event for people of all ages stopping off at five points along the way. Participants will receive a map and ticket at the car-park inside 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 route is marked and there will be marshals at road crossing points along the way.
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.
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.
Learn more about the cosmos from the Beverly-Begg Observatory
Take a free 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)
Get a kowhai seed kit and learn more about Project Gold in the Town Belt
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 inquisitive nature
Your friends and family (dogs on leads thanks)
A costume (you might win a prize)
You can use the Normanby bus from opposite Woodhaugh to return to your vehicle at the Southern Cemetery. Check out the bus timetable here.
The Town Belt Traverse Route
The Town Belt Traverse follows the red line on the map from the historic Southern Cemetery to Woodhaugh Gardens. You can find out more about the unique features of the ‘Belt by clicking on the icons of the map and enlarging it with your mouse. This map is interactive and can be used on a smart-phone.
The Dunedin City Council announced on the 19th of September its intention to consider selling 149 parcels of land across the city for a potential return of $10 million dollars.The sale of a variety of city properties has probably not come as news to Dunedin residents as the city struggles to find ways to meet debt repayments. However, analysing the list of properties that the City Council is considering for sale makes for sobering reading. What is clear from the proposal is the possibility of shedding undeveloped recreational open space, playgrounds and esplanade strips which are designed for accessibility and conservation of waterways. One site in particular that provides essential access to waterways and the wider track areas of Ross Creek falls into this category. So, the sale of such properties deserves closer examination of the public use of such land assets for suburban and rural community’s alike.
For an organisation like the Society it raises questions of the value placed on improvements undertaken by community groups and whether that investment will be returned for redistribution to other projects after any potential sale. In one example the Society have invested significant time and capital planting an area proposed for sale which the Council and community have benefited from. It could be argued that the land value has been increased and if it is sold does the value of those improvements get appraised and returned to the Society or the community? Many community organisations who make contributions in a variety of ways to public lands may have similar views and it may make organisations less enthusiastic to make such contributions in the future.
One of the other disturbing aspects of the sale proposals is the loss of open and play spaces, particularly local playgrounds who’s use often fluctuates due to generational change in community’s. Rationalisation of public property today, can mean diminished public areas that are needed in the future. Once again the question has to be asked in lieu of the Council’s playground upgrade programme whether sale proceeds of playgrounds will be reinvested into the community’s strapped for facilities and amenities. This is particularly relevant to these sites, as many are ones that have not been invested in or developed by local authorities over the years. Many of the parcels also appear to be older reserve contributions created as part of subdivision and this should stimulate further discussion on how this process is undertaken and under what criteria, so that the land is economically and socially viable at the time of development.
Highlighted on the list of potential sale properties was 76 Lovelock Avenue and a search of the City Council’s land map shows that this is a substantial portion of the Dunedin Town Belt. The land includes Opoho Park, Lovelock Bush and Bracken’s View. Now it would be easy to get hot and bothered and jump up and down at the notion that part of Dunedin’s oldest reserves was to be flogged off to the highest bidder, but it surely has to be either a clerical error or a practical joke in very poor taste. Needless to say the Society will be keeping a firm eye on this process, particularly the rational of the selection process and the methodology of consultation with the community. As for the sale of the Town Belt, well it’s probably best to take that with a grain of salt and quote a well-known beer commercial, as its doubtful the City Council are that brave.
Students from the Otago Polytechnic Arboriculture course completed the planting work at the Robin Hood lookout today. Fifteen students and their two tutors planted over 200 native plants as part of the Dunedin Amenities Society’s upgrade of the lookout area. With the removal of sycamore and other weeds from the site the view across the city and Otago Harbour has been restored. In 1954 a direction finder and plinth was installed at the area to commemorate the Queens visit to the city. Over the years this once popular spot had become overgrown and the viewing site lost and the direction finder damaged. With work from Dunedin City Council and Taskforce Green the vegetation and seating area was cleared and cleaned. A generous donation by local stonemason, Marcus Wainwright saw the plinth and direction finder repaired. Delta replaced the vandalised seats that had originally been placed on the site to commemorate former Society members George Simpson and Kathleen Gilkison.
Working in a great backdrop
In 2013 the Dunedin Amenities Society received an anonymous bequest of $5000, and the Society put that generous gift into restoring this area. The Society will also have the popular walking track from the lookout to the Observatory at the top of Robin Hood Park refurbished to make access easier and safer.It was a pleasure to have the students on site today and their hard work and enthusiasm is much appreciated by the Society. It’s great to have young people using their skills and energy to make the Town Belt and our city a better place. (Click on the pictures to view)
American writer Bill Bryson said “I see litter as part of a long continuum of anti-social behaviour” and in Dunedin we have our share of anti social people who through either laziness or ignorance tarnish our city’s reputation and visual appearance. This was the topic of discussion amongst City Councillors recently when faced with some rather graphic images of the state of cleanliness of our streets. While the contractual arrangements made by the Council were also reported it seems that Councillors had mixed responses to the problem and sought more information from Council staff. Perhaps its simply a matter of generating a wider level of civic pride amongst the community to ensure that the issue does not continue to raise its dirty head in the public arena further. What is clear is that the problem of street and landscape cleanliness is something that has been an on-going issue throughout the City at various times. Organisations such as Keep Dunedin Beautiful have worked tirelessly on public education, community programmes and city awards since 1967. With the passing of the Litter Act in 1979 and the establishment of Keep New Zealand Beautiful the group now has a national organisation for support and advocacy.
One of the issues that came out of the recent City Council discussions was the role of Council in enforcing litter provisions. The Council have far-reaching (but largely unused) powers for the policing and enforcement of litter control on private and public land under the provisions of the Litter Act 1979. There is also provision for the development of bylaws, the warranting of Council staff to act as Litter Control Officers and the issuing of infringement notices. While education and the development of civic-minded culture of citizens in our community is the most desirable outcome to keep our city clean and litter free, the use of these provisions could be undertaken in the most blatant and serious cases. For example the fine for depositing litter in a public place by an individual can be up to $5,000. Another issue that has often been raised regarding the University area is the menace of broken glass in the streets. The Litter Act 1979 allows for 1 months imprisonment or a fine of $7,500 for anyone wilfully breaking glass in a public place. These enforcement provisions should be part of the City Council’s toolbox in their efforts to keep our city clean and its community’s safe from this problem.
Overseas research on littering shows that the reasons for littering are more complicated than simple laziness or apathy. Many human factors determine or influence littering behaviour including, the socio-economic conditions of towns and suburbs, gender (males litter more than females) and age (younger people tend to litter more). Other physical factors also determine littering behaviour including the type and availability of rubbish bins in urban or rural settings and even the packaging type of products people buy may influence their choice to litter or not. Whatever the reason for littering many people in our community find it unacceptable in their streets and environs. Dunedin needs to use a combination of active enforcement, education, civic pride, investment and strategic thinking to make a positive change in our town. We cannot rely on the goodwill of volunteers to do the dirty work, all citizens must share the littering load.
Children supporting Keep NZ Beautiful after a local clean up in their area
The Dunedin Amenities Society are to work in partnership with the Department of Conservation and Dunedin City Council on the “Project Gold” initiative in the Dunedin Town Belt. The Society have agreed to contribute $1500 per annum for the next 5 years for suitable kowhai planting projects in the Town Belt. The planting projects will assist in adding new areas of the endemic kowhai important for wider bird feeding and connectivity in the reserve. Project Gold is a Department of Conservation initiative to promote the growth of locally important kowhai around Otago. The Society sees the project as having good connections with its interest in the management and restoration of the Town Belt habitat. It also provides opportunities for schools and community groups to participate in a joint conservation project that is in their own backyard. An official announcement and project start will be in October this year. The first planting will be held in August 2015 to coincide with the original August 8th date of Arbor Day created by Society co-founder Alexander Bathgate in 1892.