Into the Town Belt walked the 600

Getting ready to start

To paraphrase Tennyson “into the Town Belt walked the 600” on Sunday 29th March for the Dunedin Amenities Society’s second Town Belt Traverse event. The Society was overwhelmed and humbled by having 600 people of all ages wanting to explore one of Dunedin’s great heritage landscapes and explore the 8.2 kilometre course. The addition of the 10 interpretation signs along the course  gave information on the history of the reserve and were a welcome addition for the walkers that many found informative and interesting. This year also saw the involvement of different groups at the stopping points including the Air Training Corps and members of the local military vehicles club at Unity Park. Perhaps one of the great surprises for many walkers was an opportunity to visit the Beverly Begg Observatory at Robin Hood. Other highlights included a visit to the beautiful gardens at Olveston and live poetry at the Charles Brasch memorial at Prospect Park. However, the star of the show was the beautiful Town Belt, with its splashes of autumnal colour, native bird song, city views and the lush native bush bathed in a sunny March day. All of these things made the reserve really shine.

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At Woodhaugh the Society was rushed off its feet feeding hungry walkers and our thanks must go to the great help we received from the ladies from Portobello School who ran the barbecue. The Traverse was also an opportunity to announce its “Project Gold” partnership with the Department of Conservation. Department staff were really pleased to be able to promote the project and interact with the walkers as they finished the route. Project Gold was established by the Department of Conservation to encourage the revitalisation of local areas with the iconic Kowhai tree. The Society will contribute $1500 per annum for the next 5 years for suitable kowhai planting projects in the Town Belt which will assist in adding new areas of the endemic tree important for wider bird feeding and connectivity in the reserve. The planting of a large specimen tree by Society Chairman Robin Hyndman and Annie Wallace the acting Director of Conservation Partnerships cemented that partnership.

Like any event you need community and business support and the Society must thank all of the generous business and attractions for their support in prizes and in advertising the Traverse. A special mention must go to Adam Cullen and the team from Speedy Signs for the production of the interpretation panels and to Alison Beck at Mitre 10 Mega Dunedin for supplying the timer for the sign stands.  The Town Belt Traverse on Sunday was a resounding success for the Society, but like all events it’s the participants that create the vibe and energy of day. There were plenty of smiling faces, a few tired ones and a few that needed an extra chocolate to get them over the line. For the Society the enjoyment of the Town Belt by so many people was a rich reward that we are proud to promote. (Click on all pictures to view in full size)

Group walking

Thank you to the following businesses and organisations for their support of prizes for the Town Belt Traverse.

Olveston, Moana Pool, Ribbonwood Nurseries, Taieri Gorge Railway, Monarch Excursions, Otago Museum, Cadbury World, Larnach castle, Blueskin Nurseries, Orokonui Eco-Sanctuary, Royal Albatross colony, Nichols Garden Centre, Speights Brewery, Pukekura Penguins, Arthur Barnetts, Coupland Bakeries, Ironic Cafe, Torpedo 7, Cycleworld, Bakers Dozen, and MTF, Speedy signs and Mitre 10 Mega Dunedin.

Thanks to those sponsored adverting.

Bayleys, Slick Willys, Dunedin City Council, The Orchid Florist, Albert Alloo & Sons, Arrow International and Action Engineering.

Thanks to those organisations that have assisted the Society in organising the Traverse.

Task Force Green, Dunedin Rotary, Air Training Corp, Dunedin Astronomical Society, Olveston, Our Poets – David Howard, Alan Roddick, Shae MacMillan, and Carolyn McCurdie, Lyn and Rachel from Portobello School,  and the Department of Conservation.

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Town Belt Traverse 2015

Walkers in the sun

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.

Lower Unity Park

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.
  • 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

Family style

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)
  • 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.

Location Location Location

tui

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.

Table

Craigieburn – a slice of Scotland with a Rimu twist

Visitors to Craigieburn

The Dunedin Amenities Society hosted visitors to Craigieburn who were taking part in the 2014 Dunedin Scottish Festival today. The festival celebrating the unique Scottish heritage of Dunedin has been an opportunity for many to celebrate and explore the city’s Scottish roots. Craigieburn Project Manager Paul Pope gave the group a guided tour of the Craigieburn and showed the group the early life of the Rankin, Sherriff and Tanner families who settled this small piece of the Dunedin Bush as a colonial subsistence farm. It was an also an opportunity to discuss the lasting conservation legacy creating by the settler family who retained the extensive rimu forest on the site. Once again it was great pleasure to share the stories about the Rankin, Sherriff and Tanner families and give people a real glimpse of early Scottish life in Dunedin. (Click on pictures to see a larger view).

Robin Hood Lookout Reviewed

The Polytechnic Crew

The Polytechnic Crew

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

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)

The finished job

The finished job

Getting the Spade in the Ground

Students at the byre with Toby

It was a welcome sight to see the sun shining brightly this morning after the rain, hail and snow that Dunedin has experienced recently. Otago Polytechnic Horticulture students with tutor Lisa Burton and Project Manager Paul Pope were at Craigieburn today undertaking their 20th year of native tree planting together. Since 1994 the horticulture students have planted around 12,000 – 13,000 trees to create a unique and flourishing new piece of native forest that compliments the existing rimu forest remnant.

Today, the students planted 200 trees, filling in a few gaps in the already well established planting that has taken place in the western paddock of Craigieburn. The Dunedin Amenities Society have been well supported by the Otago Polytechnic Horticulture course at Craigieburn and their enthusiasm for the area and the work of the Society is greatly heartening. Importantly too, its great to be able to show the students the benefits of habitat restoration and to be able to show them the work of their peers. It was also good to have new Craigieburn Committee member Councillor Aaron Hawkins come along and see first hand the importance of the partnership the Society has with the Polytechnic. Once again many thanks to students today and to all of the students who have contributed to Craigieburn over the past 20 years, your enthusiasm and hard work is valued and much appreciated. (Click on the pictures to see the images in a viewer)

Good as Gold

Tui in Kowhai - Town Belt

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.