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Tawny tussocks, crags and crests

17 November 2005

Tawny tussocks, crags and crests

The Port Hills as we know them today are the lasting legacy of Christchurch personality, Harry Ell. From the early years of last century, Mr Ell recognised the importance of the Port Hills, the fact that the native bush was disappearing, and that pressure for development would increase.

Mr Ell worked hard to fulfil his dream of the construction of the Summit Road and a network of reserves and walking tracks easily accessible by the people of Christchurch. By using his considerable powers of persuasion and his position as a local MP, by his death in 1934, he had succeeded in getting a substantial section of the Summit Road completed, and a number of the reserves we see today, gazetted.

With the encouragement of a local council that recognised the importance of the Port Hills and the vital role that a group of dedicated volunteers could play, the Summit Road Society was formed in 1948 to continue his work and to further the vision. Since then, the society has worked continuously to promote pride in the Port Hills, to educate the public about their value and to respond to the threats of development.

The society, however, is far more than just a lobby group. In the early 1950s, volunteer work parties were formed and pioneered much of the practical conservation work now carried out by agencies such as the City Council and the Department of Conservation, and other volunteer groups who care about the Port Hills. The society currently has around 70 active volunteers, who carry out 3,000 hours annually of work such as track creation and maintenance, planting and weed control on public land and on its own reserve at Ohinetahi Bush above Governors Bay.

From 24 November until 10 December, the society will run an exhibition at Our City O-Tautahi, which will illustrate some of the history of the Summit Road and the Port Hills Reserves, and the society’s work.

Our City O-Tautahi is a City Council community exhibition space, located in the old Municipal Chambers on the corner of Oxford Terrace and Worcester Boulevard. Exhibitions are open 10am–4pm, Monday to Saturday. Admission free, all welcome.

ENDS

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