Scientist: maar not only 'outstanding' site

Foulden Maar near Middlemarch. Photo: Kimberley Collins
Foulden Maar near Middlemarch. Photo: Kimberley Collins
Concerns about protecting ancient fossils at Foulden Maar are also highlighting the need to protect other outstanding Otago landscape features, a Dunedin paleontologist says.

Associate Prof Daphne Lee has criticised a proposal to mine hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fossil-rich diatomite at the 23-million-year-old site to add to animal feed.

Prof Lee said yesterday that the controversy over Foulden Maar, near Middlemarch, could bring wider benefits by showing the need to identify and protect some other key landscape features.

"We need as a community to look at this again and start appreciating these outstanding natural features and promoting public understanding of them, with community discussion.

"It's time to have a look at them from a scientific, recreational, tourist, community and educational viewpoint," she said.

In the overall Otago region and within the Dunedin City Council's boundaries were "many outstanding natural features with a geological flavour".

She also believed other New Zealand regions had provided more protection for "outstanding natural features" than was the case in some parts of inland Otago.

The Hindon Maar complex, which comprised four related sites, several of them involving maars, was not as old as Foulden Maar, but was also of outstanding significance for its ancient fossils.

Another important ancient fossil site was in Dunedin, at the Kaikorai Valley fossil leaf beds in Frasers Gully, she said.

The Dunedin Second Generation Plan (2GP) listed, in an appendix overlay, only 21 "outstanding natural features", including the Aramoana salt marsh and Tunnel Beach, but the area had some "absolutely fantastic" features.

The list included "very few geological features and most are ones that cannot be destroyed", and "definitely needs to be amended," she said.

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