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.

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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

126th Annual General Meeting

Town Belt Traverse walkers in the sun

The Dunedin Amenities Society is holding its 126th Annual General Meeting at the Maori Hill Community  Centre in Highgate at 5.30pm. The guest speaker will be walking author Anthony Hamel discussing the Town Belt Traverse. All are welcome for a glass of wine and nibbles.

This is a great opportunity to learn more about the Society and become an active member of NZ’s oldest conservation society.

Find the venue on the map below (see you at the little blue flag)

Les Cleveland

Members of the Dunedin Amenities society will be saddened to learn of the passing of Society life member Les Cleveland. Les was a man of outstanding achievements, businessman, philanthropist, regional councillor, environmentalist, family man, opera singer but above all, he was at heart, a gardener. Les trained in horticulture at the Dunedin Botanic Garden before embarking on a successful business career that led him into the wider fields of interest that he pursued with the vigour and enthusiasm that was his hallmark.

Dunedin City and the region has benefited from his efforts in many of these fields of interest especially those associated with arts and culture where he was a generous benefactor. The Society will always remember his outstanding contribution to the city’s amenity and townscape values. In particular the planting of many city reserves, beautification of areas with daffodils and rhododendrons and his fundraising for the Society’s development of the Anzac Square Gardens at the Railway Station. These projects are a lasting legacy that have created valuable and beautiful open spaces for our city. His humour, good will, and generosity of spirit will be greatly missed.

Video and story of Les and the Society planting trees at Woodhaugh 2011

Ross Creek Clearance Update

Members of the Dunedin Amenities Society met with Council staff and its engineering consultants this morning to review the recent bush clearance below the dam face. The clearance of any native bush area is always something that should be mourned, but the nature of the dam and its purpose has meant that it is unavoidable. Today’s inspection showed that the City Council have reduced the bush clearance from the original 5000 square metres by nearly a half and that is a very satisfactory outcome. The plan now is for the City Council to survey the site and complete their design plans for the dam strengthening so that work can begin in October. The Society raised a number of issues regarding the habitat and recreational restoration once the work was completed. Particular concerns are the opening up of the existing canopy and effects on the remaining bush edges from increased light levels now that clearance is completed. This has relevance in regards to the invasion of the area by undesirable weed species. Other issues that will come out of the next design phase will be the repositioning of the former recreational tracks. While the City Council has much to do in planning the restoration of the site, the Society can at least see a clear coherent process at work, and that provides some reassurance. Click on the photograph’s to view gallery.

Ross Creek Dam Update

Copy of bushThe Dunedin City Council will be clearing approximately 5000 square metres of native bush on the eastern and western portions of the current earth dam. The Society have raised a number of concerns over this project in relation to the environmental and recreational compensation that Council should provide in lieu of the clearance work. It’s clear that the City Council have an infrastructural need to upgrade the dam for safety and to bring the Ross Creek site up to standard for future water production. There is however a need to ensure that the area is respected as part of Dunedin’s premier recreational and conservation network and that the public see a high degree of diligence, planning and environmental sensitivity fitting to an area of such importance. The Society have specifically raised issues around;

  • The protection and retention of the bush areas around the western ridge of the dam.
  • The positioning of the proposed haul road to deliver earth fill for the proposed strengthening.
  • The transplantation of plant material for restoration in other suitable areas.
  • The re-use of fallen log and litter material for restoration and the creation of invertebrate habitat sites within the region.
  • A trade-off arrangement for restoration planting in areas of Ross creek to compensate the community and biodiversity for the loss of the native bush.
  • The site should be photographed and recorded before, during and after the operation so that structural and vegetation change in the Ross Creek area is recorded for the historical record.
  • The removal of the significant wilding pines from the eastern side of the reservoir.
  • The reinstatement of all recreational tracks to continue traditional access.
  • Replanting of the dam face in shallow rooted species that are appropriate in the wider conservation and landscape context to create biological and landscape connectivity.

The Society have been in communication with staff of the Dunedin City Council and will continue to do so as this project is progressed. A further meeting will be held this week as an opportunity to push the Society’s concerns and thoughts to promote the best environmental and recreational outcome for the community.

SONY DSC

Annual General Meeting

SONY DSCThe Society will hold its 124th Annual General Meeting on Tuesday 16th of April at the Botanic Gardens Centre (next to the Opoho Bowling Club) in Lovelock Avenue at 5.30pm. The guest speaker for the meeting will the City Council’s Heritage Policy Planner, Dr Glen Hazelton. The topic of Dr Hazelton’s address will be “Heritage Buildings and Seismic Implications.”

With the advent of the Christchurch earthquakes and the government looking at changes in standards regarding earthquake prone buildings the management of heritage buildings is an important issue for the City. With Dunedin having so many heritage buildings that create the unique character of the city it is going to become increasingly important for  owners and local authorities to be able to have meaningful and sustainable standards to retain these structures.

The Annual General Meeting is an important event for the Society as it celebrates its 125th year, and an opportunity for members to hear more about the activities of the organisation and consider its future plans and programme. It’s also important that the society continue to be a vocal and active organisation in the conservation and enhancement of our local landscape and environment.