Years ago, I visited Blackhead, a geological outcrop that lies just beyond St Clair in Dunedin. For many people, it’s better known as Blackhead Quarry, that supplies gravel made from pulverised columnar basalt rock. It’s certainly not a place to visit on a Sunday afternoon. Or is it?
In Northern Ireland where I am originally from, there are columnar basalt rocks too – but they haven’t turned them into gravel. Instead, the area was declared a World Heritage Site and a nature reserve, a Visitor centre was built, and a million people visited it in 2017 alone. I’m talking about The Giant’s Causeway, arguably the biggest tourist attraction in Northern Ireland.
But here in Dunedin, Blackhead was made into a Quarry.
I want to give you an idea of how special Blackhead possibly could have been. I found this online from a Geocaching group’s website.
… The base of the hill is composed of a magnificent range of basaltic columns, standing erect, of much larger size than the beds above, quite as complete as those of Fingal’s Cave at Staffa, or the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. Indeed, the rocks here are as worthy of a visit as either of these Old Country lions and there is no doubt, were they as well known, they would be equally famed.
So now you understand my surprise, and my horror at seeing what has been done to Blackhead. There’s still a remnant of it left, but it’s not a place we’d recommend visitors to go see.
Of course I’m not saying this to promote Northern Ireland over New Zealand. Northern Ireland has plenty of its own foibles!
I’m bringing this up because today’s show is about another geological treasure near Middlemarch in Central Otago called Foulden Maar, a small but very deep 23 million year old volcanic crater that contains layers of beautifully preserved fossils. If you are from Dunedin you will have heard of it by now if you read the papers or listen to the news, because its future is in peril from being mined for its diatomite. [But see latest developments! http://www.odt.co.nz/business/further-bad-news-troubled-plaman%5D
My guest for this show is Andrea Bosshard here to tell us about the site, why it is particularly precious, what is threatening it, and what we can do to save it. Andrea has thrown her heart and soul into this campaign and has been key in raising its profile. She is a filmmaker, making the well appreciated Coby, along with Shane Loader. She’s currently living in Dunedin as well as near Middlemarch where they are building their small eco-friendly house.
Listen to this programme on FOULDEN MAAR
FOULDEN MAAR was first aired on the 7th June 2019 through Otago Access Radio 105.4 FM and was supported by Sustainable Dunedin City with the assistance of New Zealand on Air. Eco Living in Action’s host Dr Maureen Howard is a Sustainable Practice Educator at Treedom NZ