Frustration local input disregarded

Alasdair Morrison (left) and Alex McAlpine say better care needs to be taken of the Truby King...
Alasdair Morrison (left) and Alex McAlpine say better care needs to be taken of the Truby King Reserve in Seacliff. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Waikouaiti Coast residents unimpressed by a maintenance proposal for Seacliff’s Truby King Reserve say local knowledge and skills have been disregarded.

Several speakers at a Dunedin City Council hearing yesterday expressed their frustration that a draft plan produced by consultants was largely missing their input.

It was something hearings committee chairman David Benson-Pope sought to fix by looking to share the next phase of the plan’s development with the groups before it progresses further.

The reserve is at the site of the former Seacliff asylum and features forest and areas that can be used for recreation and walking.

Critics have said tidying it up should be a higher priority than development plans such as creating a car park.

Waikouaiti Coast Community Board chairman Alasdair Morrison said overgrown foliage obscured pathways and fallen dead trees and branches were allowed to lie.

"The current neglected state of the Enchanted Forest within the reserve is nothing short of a disgrace."

Community board member Andy Barratt said the draft plan was the flawed product of a flawed process.

Truby King Reserve committee chairman Alex McAlpine said the proposed management plan was largely the work of consultants with apparently little appreciation of the background and recent history of the reserve.

The committee had a series of discussions with a council working party, but "almost none of this effort is reflected in the proposed plan", he said.

Botanical Society of Otago chairwoman Gretchen Brownstein was worried the level of maintenance considered necessary for much of the Enchanted Forest might be inadequate.

"The proposed management plan is essentially a proposal to abandon care of the very trees and shrubs that are the enchantment of the bulk of the reserve," she said in her written submission.

Heritage New Zealand planner Fran Davies told the committee more information should be provided about the psychiatric hospital.

"In particular, a balanced view should be conveyed of the aesthetic value of the setting with what is now recognised as the abhorrent treatment and practices that occurred at Seacliff Asylum."

Most structures at the site were demolished in the mid-1970s.

In her written submission, Mary Chapman said her aunt burnt to death in the 1942 fire and the reserve had many layers of history.

Future management and maintenance of the site should be based on those layers and many stories could be presented sensitively, she said.

Geraldine Tait, another community board member, wondered why the council would proceed with development work when it had not undertaken basic maintenance.


The women burnt to death because the ward was locked.

An 'enchanted' forest is not conducive to mental health. An enchanting sylvan scene, perhaps.

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