A cherished heritage site: Riccarton House and Bush Enhancement project

Riccarton House and Bush is a familiar spot for many Cantabrians who enjoy the food markets on a Saturday morning. However, do we truly know its history?

A Rich History

Pūtaringamotu Riccarton Bush holds a captivating history that intertwines with the rich tapestry of Christchurch. Nestled within this enchanting seven-hectare forest are towering trees, that have been silent witnesses to centuries gone by.

Pūtaringamotu Riccarton Bush, which is owned by the people of Canterbury, is not just a testament to nature’s resilience; it is a cherished piece of heritage. It is a significant site for Ngai Tūāhuriri/Ngai Tahu as a place of kaika (settlement) and mahinga kai (food-gathering place).

Pūtaringamotu translates to mean, the ‘place of an echo’ linked to the reverberations produced by people walking through the swampy area and ‘the severed ear;’ the latter referring to its physical isolation from other stands of bush. In 1843, The Deans family were the first permanent European settlers to reside here, lured again by the bountiful resources Pūtaringamotu possessed.

They added the name Riccarton as an homage to their ancestral lands in Scotland. With the onset of new settlers, the bush was reduced to half its size in the 1850s to provide timber for a growing Christchurch.

As early conservationists, the Deans set out to preserve the remnant and gifted the Bush to the people of Canterbury in 1914. The Riccarton Bush Act 1914 lays out the terms required to protect and enhance the bush for the enjoyment of all Cantabrians for all perpetuity.

Since 1914 the Riccarton Bush Trust has sought to protect and enhance Pūtaringamotu Riccarton Bush from ever increasing pressures brought on by urbanisation, introduced pests and weeds. Against all odds, the bush has survived.

Today, 600-year-old Kahikatea stand tall protecting a diverse ecosystem of native flora and fauna.

It is an astounding achievement to have such a dazzling emerald right at the heart of an equally resilient and proud city.

It is a testament to the perseverance and dedication of those who lived with it so sustainably and to those who fought to protect it.

“But do those to whom it belongs- not the people of the district alone but all New Zealanders-recognise how beyond price is this piece of ancient forest … do they know if destroyed it can never be replaced…”
– Dr Leonard Cockayne 1906

The Future

The Enhancement project aims to achieve the following objectives:

• Integrate Ngāi Tūāhuriri values, associations, and narratives into the design, art, entrance experience, and interpretation of Pūtaringamotu/Riccarton Bush.
• Improve the track system and infrastructure.
• Develop the Grove area to accommodate larger groups of visitors.
• Provide educational interpretation that encourages engagement and participation.

Certain areas of the boardwalk have started to deteriorate, the concrete paths have become uneven, posing a tripping hazard. Additionally, the signage is outdated, providing visitors with limited information on the cultural importance of this special place.

A total of 2.4 million is needed to fund the Enhancement project. Your donation will help protect, conserve, and enhance this important landmark for future generations.
Visit the Riccarton House website to donate.


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