Always up to the task

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).


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.


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.

Olveston Commemoration for Les Cleveland

Olveston ProjectThe Dunedin Amenities Society will combine with Rotary and Olveston to develop a memorial site on Queens Drive commemorating the contribution made to the city by the late Les Cleveland. The project will include seating, a memorial and drift planting of daffodils alongside the Olveston stately home. Planting of the daffodil bulbs on site will commence on Saturday 21st of March at around 9.00-9.30 am. Volunteers who wish to assist with the planting of the bulbs should bring a spade or suitable pry bar for opening up the ground. Les Cleveland was a generous and passionate benefactor to Dunedin and his love of people and plants can be seen across a wide variety of areas in Dunedin.

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


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.


The Octagonal Heart

Octagon Street Scene

Looking south in the late 1890’s

In the 2014 Annual Plan deliberations a proposal to create part of the Octagon and lower Stuart Street into a pedestrian precinct was submitted by two Otago University students . That plan has gained momentum within the City Council, with the announcement of an investigation into developing the idea as a trial. Now in July Councillors have requested Council staff report back on October 28, with public consultation to follow and a final decision to be made in January 2015. The development of the Octagon as a pedestrian precinct is not a new proposal and has been debated in Dunedin on a number of occasions.

The Octagon lies at the heart of Dunedin and its physical shape and central location make it an important civic open space within the central city.  As an open space it has been the subject to considerable change since its initial layout during Charles Kettle’s survey of the city in 1846. The importance of the central location of the site was recognised very early in Dunedin’s development and in 1854 the Dunedin Public Lands Ordinance proclaimed that it “shall not be lawful to erect any building whatever within or upon the centre area of the Square called Moray Place, …except a parapet wall and railing, or fence, for enclosing the said area, which shall for ever remain otherwise an open area.” While the name Octagon was never formalised it became part of popular use in Dunedin probably because of the shape of the adjacent formation of Moray Place and its thoroughfares in Kettle’s original layout.

Octagon 1862 - Te Papa Collection

The Octagon 1862

In 1864 the first monument was erected in the Octagon with the construction of Cargill’s monument to commemorate William Cargill the first Superintendent of Otago. Built by Australian John Young in Melbourne some of the stone for the monument was from a quarry opened up in the Town Belt for the Exhibition building. The monument was later moved to its current position in the Exchange in 1872 to allow for better road access to connect George and Princes streets. In 1887 the current statue of the poet Robert Burns was unveiled in the upper Octagon.

During the nineteenth century economic pressures on provincial and local government meant there was little funding for public spaces and the Octagon remained somewhat derelict for many years. Its condition was a source of regular comment by residents through the media from the 1860’s – 1890’s, particularly over the need for pedestrian and vehicle access and the condition that these routes were in during wet weather. In 1864 a writer to the Otago Daily Times wrote that the Octagon was “so abominably slippery as to be unsafe for male pedestrians and dangerous to females, who alas  are not allowed to by etiquette carry walking sticks.” The debate continued with another 1873 letter to the Otago Daily Times exclaiming  “What is this bleak and deserted place in the heart of our city meant for?

With the foundation of the Dunedin Amenities Society in 1888 a plan for improving the Octagon was developed and implemented by the Society from 1890-1892. Through public subscription and fundraising the Society completed the planting of the London Plane trees seen in the Octagon today. Ornamental fencing, seating and further planting was also undertaken as part of the Society’s development of the space. The completed improvements by the Society coincided with the construction of the Thomas Burns memorial as a gift to the city by Robert Chapman in 1892. However, the memorial was generally unpopular and was later removed from the Octagon in the 1940’s.

Octagon 1890's - Te Papa Collection

The Octagon 1890’s – with the Society’s improvements and the Burns Monument

1966 saw the completion of the Star fountain in the Octagon after the Evening Star newspaper donated £5,000 to the City Council. The fountain was a popular attraction in the city, but by the 1980’s it had become unsightly and during the refurbishment of the Octagon in the early 1990’s it was removed.  There was significant public outcry about its removal and the new design initiated by the City Council.

Octagon 1960's

The Octagon in the 1960’s with the Star Fountain

The Octagon has evolved into a much-loved public space in Dunedin that has combined civic pride, local identity and a strong sense of public ownership.  The public’s collective ownership of the Octagon as an open space is deeply entwined in personal and civic history that defines both the identity of individuals but also the city. The legal protection of the Octagon and its links to Kettle’s survey also makes it central to the historic and heritage narrative of Dunedin. That makes any future development of the Octagon an issue that will have high public expectations on a physical, aesthetic and historical level. With its impressive architectural backdrop and linkages to the wider heritage values of the city its importance cannot be understated. The Octagon has largely become an identifiable symbol of the city and a defining structural element in the built landscape of Dunedin. The City Council needs to make careful and considered decisions about the nature of the public space in the area that recognises the affection that residents have for the Octagon. As a major contributor to the historical and aesthetic values of the Octagon the Society will watch with a keen interest as this proposal develops.

Octagon 1940's

Preparing for war – the editors family in the Octagon 1940

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.