Society still working for Town Belt

The foundation of the Dunedin Amenities Society came during a period when Dunedin had grown rapidly after the boom of the gold rush and the rapid growth of the commercial sector. The uncontrolled development of the city threatened many of the natural resources of the city.

Working together . . . The Dun­edin Amenities Society works in partnership with the Town Belt...
Working together . . . The Dun­edin Amenities Society works in partnership with the Town Belt Kaitiaki, a group of primary and secondary school pupils who are passionate about the environ­ment. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The Otago Daily Times described Dunedin in 1887: ‘‘. . . Go where you will, the natural beauty of hill and valley, wood and water, meet you in all directions. But with all this loveliness in our surroundings, it is very doubtful whether one could anywhere find a community with a less worthy appreciation of the pleasantness of the place wherein their lines have fallen.’’
The rapid development of the city scarred the landscape and depleted the natural resources that were both admired and exploited for their financial and personal gain. There was no clearer indication of this than in Dunedin Town Belt. It had been extensively used for squatters, hunting and timber and with the discovery of gold in 1861 that pressure dramatically increased.
By the 1880s there was regular public outcry over the condition of the Town Belt. In 1887 the Otago Daily Times reported ‘‘It is high time to arrest the process of denudation that is going on in the Town Belt and to make it more available as a place of recreation for the people than it is at present’’. The advent of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1888 and deep concern for the reserve led to local businessman Thomas Brown and Scottish lawyer Alexander Bathgate founding the society in 1888.
Founding father . . . Alexander Bathgate was an energetic visionary who looked to protect the...
Founding father . . . Alexander Bathgate was an energetic visionary who looked to protect the natural resources and biodi­versity for the benefit of the city. Courtesy of Toitu Otago Settlers Museum. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Mr Bathgate outlined the protection of the existing natural landscape and the enhancement of the urban built environment in the developing city. He challenged his Dunedin colonial audience in stating: ‘‘I fear we have inherited more than the names of our town and its streets, and that a portion of hereditary bad taste and apathy has fallen to our lot’’. Mr Bathgate would play a leading role in the society and would help found the official Arbor Day in New Zealand. 

THE TOWN BELT AND THE SOCIETY TODAY 
‘‘If you plant trees you do an unselfish act. The benefits are not yours alone, but are in a measure common to all. You are not likely to see the trees you plant attain their full strength and beauty. You are, then, not working for yourselves, but for others, including those who are to come after you, and are doing as I have said, a generous and publicspirited action.’’ — Alexander Bathgate, 1900.
Unselfish act . . . People prepare to plant trees in the Town Belt. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Unselfish act . . . People prepare to plant trees in the Town Belt. PHOTO: SUPPLIED


The society continues to advocate for the enhancement and protection of the Dunedin Town Belt as a heritage and biodiversity reserve of prime importance to the city. It’s a passion we have had for 131 years. We have realised we need to create a new generation of enthusiastic people with a love for this special place, and our partnership in the Town Belt Kaitiaki has seen 14 schools become part of a growing group of young people willing to share our passion.


In the past two to three years the society has invested over $100,000 in projects around the city for the betterment of the community. However, we cannot do that on our own and we need people to take a more active part in the society and in the Town Belt. There is strength in numbers, and strength in a collegiate approach for the future of the area.
We would ask all people who come on the traverse to get behind our organisation and participate as a vocal member or as a silent supporter Sunday is your chance to join an organisation that is committed to our city and our environment. The society needs to create new generations of people passionate for the Town Belt.
 
See below for other related stories:
Taking in Dunedin sights en masse
Society makes its mark
Society still working for Town Belt
 

We would like to thank all of our sponsors for this event.

 
 

 

 

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