Dec 12 1980

Pineapple and Flagstaff Walk

No. 31 on old hardcopy list of 113 club tramps. “Pineapple Track – Swampy Summit. Year Round”

The hills around Dunedin are superb viewpoints to see the city, coastline and ranges of inland Otago. Flagstaff is one such hill and like Mt Cargill to the north allows the walker to pass through several types of vegetation en route to the summit.

Most of the features seen from the walk have strong historic significance. Beyond Signal Hill, the site of Otakou can be seen. When the first European settlers arrived, this Maori settlement was the largest in the region. In 1817 this ‘kaika’ contained 600 very “fine houses, neatly furnished”. From 1833-1841, a whaling station was operating from here. The whalers’ township, known as Musselburgh was nearer the heads. By 1840, 250 Europeans were living around the harbour entrance. It was from Otakou that the earliest immigrants received their first supplies of fresh meat, milk, butter and vegetables. The region south to the Nuggets and inland by the Clutha to as far as the Lammerlaw Range and West Taieri was bought for European settlement of $4,800.

Almost immediately apparent from the walk is the distinctive layout of the centre of the centre of Dunedin. Charles Kettle and a party of surveyors laid out the streets in 1848, using the special features of the Scottish capital, Edinburgh as a guide. The planned settlement took its name in 1845 from the Highlander’s name for Edinburgh. The town belt, the ribbon of bush threading its way through the suburbs, cutting off the inner city from the suburbs also dates from the early surveys. Immigrants were offered land packages on or before their arrival in Otago. Each consisted of a 1/4 acre (1012 sq m) town allotment, a 10 acre 4 hectare) suburban allotment, and a 50 acre (20 hectare) rural allotment, all sold at the rate of £2 an acre ($9.60) a hectare). The town belt separated the town and suburban allotments. Most rural blocks were on the Taieri Plains.

Kettle’s name was given to Flagstaff Hill, but through common usage the term Flagstaff became accepted and superseded Mt Kettle.

As early as 1925 there was skiing on Swampy Hill and Flagstaff. Sixteen years later an exceptionally heavy snowfall convinced many of the return of very cold winters. Many Otago skiers spent several weekends clearing the hillside of stones and boulders but unfortunately for them the snow never came back.

In these early days of settlement the forests all but cut off Dunedin to the north. Long before a road was made around Mt Cargill, the track known as ‘Johnny Jones’ (the Waikouaiti whaler) track linked the Dunedin area with Waitati via Flagstaff and Swampy. In 1859 snow poles were put up along the track to guide travellers caught out in storm or mist.

A road was made between Whare Flat along the inland flank of the hill to near the saddle between Flagstaff and Swampy Hill in 1870. The settlers at Whare Flat used it to draw their supplies of timber from the bush on the other side of Flagstaff. In later years these old roads fell out of use.

The settlers, utilising a number of small sawmills, ‘cut-out’ much of the bush on the eastern flank of Swampy Hill and Flagstaff. The Pineapple Track at the northern end of Flagstaff passes through such ‘cutover’ forest. From here podocarps were milled to provide local building materials. Only an occasional remnant podocarp remains. Mahoe (whitey wood) is plentiful here while on the forest floor and tree trunks, many species of fern abound. The upper part of the track here includes totara saplings and old stunted broadleafs with twisted limbs, growing in a slightly drier soil. Hounds tongue and “hen and chicken” type ferns hang from the dead tree trunks.

The tussock on the part of the walk from the Whare Flat Road car park (known as the ‘Bullring’) is being taken over by native scrub: flax, manuka and the occasional Olearia – although these get knocked back by fires from time to time. Native orchids are common here, especially in early summer. Skylarks can be heard on this hill from sunrise to sunset.

The summit: An unobtrusive plane table helps point out the many interesting places which can be seen from here. To the north you can see the higher hill of Swampy with its buildings from aviation and scientific experiments, and to its east is Mt Cargill, topped by a TV transmitter. Further away is the city and the drowned valley of Otago Harbour with the Peninsula beyond and the sand dune suburbs of St Clair and St Kilda connecting this with the mainland.

Turning northwards, the track crosses the tussock-covered scenic reserve beyond the summit. In spring and summer, orchids and violets can be seen between the snow tussock. Boulders of volcanic rock are scattered over the hill top, some of which are clustered in lines of ‘stone stripes’ down the hillside.

The tussock grassland now largely covering the summit and upper slopes is only 2-300 years old. Before this , forest covered the entire area. Periodic fires have encouraged the tussock grassland. Snow tussock, mountain flax and Astolia are the most common native plants, while manuka is encroaching into the grassland that fire has not recently reached.

Once into the bush, the track drops through regenerating shrub-land from the signpost at the top of the Pineapple Walk. It was near this spot that in the 1920s a well-known grocer and tramper guiding parties to see the views would pause, and pass around a tin of pineapple. It became a tradition that once empty the tin would be left on a tree or fence post – giving the track the name.

From clearings on this track can be seen Ross Creek Reservoir and the city beyond, also the Mt Cargill television transmitter and the northern side of Leith Valley. Many shrubs are invading clearings from the bush edge. Fuchsia and pepperwood are common. Grazing has determined the nature of this vegetation with only the unpalatable species surviving.

The Booth Road water treatment station sits in a clearing of ornamental plants. A small round concrete tank in the pines on the left of the track halfway down  from this station is also part of the water supply scheme built before the 1950s. A tap near the edge of the bush gives cool refreshing water to the walker on his or her return.

At the Booth Road end of the walkway, the track passes through the Dunedin City Council exotic plantation. Spruce, ash, radiata pine and Douglas fir were planted over 30 years ago as part of growth experiments with these species in the area.

– From DoC hard copy information sheet.

One response so far

One Response to “Pineapple and Flagstaff Walk”

  1.   rachat crediton 18 Dec 2010 at 5:23 am

    really an eye opener for me.

    – Robson


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