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).
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 23rd April and itsabsolutely free!
The route is a pram friendly (3 wheel buggies with some help) 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 10-11 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 drawn at the finish. You must be at the draw to collect your prize. The route is marked and there will be marshals at road crossing points along the way. Register on the day at the start of the walk.
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)
The Society hosted around 25 walkers, a few dogs and some visiting neighbours for the guided walk round Craigieburn today. The walk was part of the 2016 Conservation Week events in the city and nationwide. Once the low mist around Otago Harbour lifted the day was bright and fine and Craigieburn shone as it always does. There was an opportunity for the walkers to see and hear about the history of the colonial farm and the efforts of the Rankin, Tanner and Sherriff families to preserve the great rimu forest on the property. It was also an opportunity for the Society to show its vision and commitment to the heritage and conservation values of the area. After a good walk and a cup of tea the group were put to work planting some trees to celebrate Conservation Week 2016. Well done.
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.
It wasn’t the greatest of day for a walk around the city with a heavy cover of drizzle, but that’s never put Dunedin people off before. More than 200 people turned up for the Shoreline Walk as part of the Dunedin Heritage Festival 2015 on Sunday 30th August. Such a turn out was overwhelming, but pleasing at the same time.
With the line of the 1848 and 1865 shoreline mapped by Matt Schmidt from Heritage New Zealand and some temporary markers painted onto the route the Shoreline Trail was something entirely new for Dunedin. The trail takes in some of the earliest occupations of Dunedin, from the use of the foreshore by Maori in the settlement of Otepoti, to the arrival of the first settlers in 1848, and onwards into the boom of the city after the discovery of gold in 1861. The shoreline is a time capsule of Dunedin’s development in the 19th century to what we see today. It’s also a reminder of how much of an impact human settlement has had on Dunedin, in light of the amount of land that was reclaimed from the Otago Harbour.
Today’s event took in many of the important sites that we may take for granted or have forgotten that existed in the passage of time. Matt Schmidt gave great in-depth detail of the archaeological record of the area and how that record tells the story of Dunedin, while Paul Pope added some of the above ground detail about some of the areas including their relevance to the Society. Overall, this was a very successful event that gave people a real insight into the history of Dunedin. It also promotes the idea of making this trail a permanent feature of the city to engage both visitors and the community.
With the number of walkers attending it wasn’t possible to show people some of the pictures that we had of different sites that we visited. Below is a selection of those photographs to give readers a feel for the historic land and street-scape. (Click on the image and you will view it in full size)
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).