Red Bridge River Park

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To establish a river park and native recovery centre at the Luggate Red Bridge, providing multiple benefits to the community and the region. The park will serve as a recreation area, an education destination, a research facility, a native nursery, and a local history resource. These attributes, combined, will create a valuable community asset.
A punt operated from the site prior to the opening of the Luggate Grandview Bridge (Red Bridge) in 1915. Subsequently, the property was divided into 3 lots, each with a small house. The land was seized or purchased in the 1980s when the intention was to build a series of hydro dams on the Clutha, including one at Luggate. Lewis Verduyn-Cassels began living on the middle section in 1991, and soon started a native restoration project removing pines, briars, periwinkle, blackberry, and other invasive species, that were intermixed with dying remnant kanuka and Chinese gold-workings. Since 1991, Lewis has removed most of the large pines on the north side of part of the site, establishing areas of kanuka, cordyline australis, and flax, via an on-site native nursery.

  • Recreation Area: A walking/biking/fishing access track along the riverside will add a loop to the main river trail, so that trail users can traverse the park before returning to the main trail. There will be a kayak/raft take-out area, and a common recreational area for picnics, school groups, local gatherings and events.
  • Outdoor Education: Outdoor education activities and studies for schools, technical and tertiary institutions, including kayaking, water safety, freshwater ecosystem studies, and native restoration.
  • Research Facility: Freshwater management and research involving universities, NIWA, and Manaaki Tuna (Longfinn eel group Massey University), to study impacts of land use intensification coinciding with major changes in national and regional policy.
  • Native Nursery: Ecological restoration with an on-site native nursery to ensure a long-term supply of plants for the river park, and eventually other river-based projects, without ongoing external funding.
  • History Archive: The park is an archaeological site with Chinese gold-mining features such as stone huts and tailings. The Trust will collate and interpret a heritage resource also including the Luggate punt, the unique Luggate Red Bridge, and Upper Clutha gold-dredges.
  • Park Riverkeeper: An on-site park caretaker/riverkeeper will work for the Red Bridge River Park Trust, to manage the native nursery, undertake native restoration, maintain the park, and liaise with visitors including school groups, work experience volunteers, and tourists, fostering a culture of stewardship.
  • Sustainable Structure: The Trust is structured to ensure that the park's basic operating costs, maintenance, and improvements, are self-funded continuously through the lease of a small on-site cottage to a park caretaker/ riverkeeper, who will work for the Trust under the lease agreement, providing the park, and the Trust's native restoration work programme, with long-term surety.
A walking/biking/fishing access track will form a loop track along the riverbank, from the Reko's Point Conservation Area carpark on Shortcut Road, returning to the main river track east of the Red Bridge. A community area is provided on the riverside for picnics, with a sheltered back-eddy for kayaks/rafts to take out, and for swimming in hot weather. This area will be suitable for community gatherings and organised events, with service access to a carpark and eco toilets. Vehicle movements will be controlled to prevent damage to the riverbank and the park grounds.
The Bridge River Park Trust will partner with schools, technical and tertiary institutions including the Mount Aspring College, the Otago Polytechnic, and the Otago University, providing a destination for outdoor education activities, i.e. kayaking, outdoor first-aid, water safety, and freshwater ecosystem studies. The site will include educational features dedicated to Longfin eels, skinks, and endangered plants.  

The Red Bridge site will host research into sustainable freshwater management in association with universities and NIWA, involving water testing and bio-monitoring to measure impacts of land use intensification. We will also provide a Longfin eel habitat with the assistance of Manaaki Tuna, a group of Longfin academics, teachers and researchers at Massey University. The native Longfin eel is highly endangered having suffered the loss of its migration route to and from the Pacific Ocean because of hydro dams. They are the biggest, longest-lived eel species in the world. The females can reach more than 2m in size and live up to 100 years of age before breeding. We will hold Longfin eel open days, working to preserve this endangered species.
A native nursery will support the long-term ecological restoration of the site, and later other river corridor land. Past residents have introduced a variety of invasive species which require on-going removal and control. A staged native restoration plan will be prepared. Some exotic trees will be retained for their amenity values, including some oaks and Ponderosa pines, and many of the riverbank willows which provide shade. The Red Bridge River Part Trust will cooperate with Te Kakano Aotearoa Trust, hosting work experience volunteers and travellers. The river park will be a working native restoration site, allowing visitors to learn about, and engage directly in, best practice river corridor restoration and conservation.  

The site contains significant archaeological evidence of Chinese gold-mining, and there are good written and photographic records relating to the Luggate punt and the construction of the unique Luggate Red Bridge, opened on 28 October 1915. The river park will collate relevant historical records, providing interpretation information for the surviving archaeological features and the iconic Red Bridge.

The project has a strong focus on community involvement, education, and stewardship, to protect and heal our river environment. Stewardship comes from individuals, and the children who learn from our example. The river park includes a built-in "riverkeeper", in perpetuity, to help foster a new generation of hands-on riverkeepers, while maintaining the river park facility for the community, without any need for ongoing financial support from the QLDC, or DOC.

Native birds on the site include Fantail (Piwakawaka), Bellbird (Korimako), Grey Warbler (Riroriro), White-faced Heron, and NZ Falcon (Karearea). Rare visitors include Tui and NZ Wood Pigeon (Kereru). The rarest bird attracted to the site has been a White Heron (Kotuku). A bird food forest will cater to Bellbirds, Tuis and Kereru etc.

The management of the river park is vested in a charitable trust called the Red Bridge River Park Trust. The river park includes an on-site Caretaker, or Riverkeeper, governed by the Trust, to manage the native nursery, maintain the park, and to liaise with river and trail users, and park volunteers. The Trust covenant will ensure that the park's community purpose is retained in perpetuity.

The Red Bridge River Park proposal is consistent with the Clutha Mata-Au River Parkway vision to protect, conserve, and improve the natural, amenity, and historical values of the Clutha Mata-Au River corridor, with community involvement. The Clutha Mata-Au River Parkway project was initiated by Lewis Verduyn-Cassels in 2003, in response to the threat of real estate development along the river corridor. Between 2009-2012, Lewis also coordinated the Clutha River Forum, an alliance of conservation groups opposed to further hydro dams, campaigning for Option 5 - No More Dams.

The Upper Clutha Mata-Au is an extraordinary natural feature in a unique landscape. We believe that the physical and visual landscape corridor bordering the river should be conserved to protect its ecosystem and natural amenity values.

We plan to officially open the Red Bridge River Park during the Red Bridge Centennial celebrations on 28 October 2015. In this way, the community riverside park will form a lasting link with the historic Red Bridge and the Luggate community. 

Download PDF of Concept Plan

Lewis Verduyn-Cassels



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