Preserving Pūtaringamotu: Riccarton House & Bush

A Christchurch park ranger has a special vision for an inclusive and enlightening experience at a beloved Riccarton heritage site.

Michael Steenson (pictured), the dedicated ranger at Pūtaringamotu/Riccarton Bush, is invested in the future of this natural haven. Thanks to a Masters degree in geography, he integrates local wisdom into the fabric of conservation planning and management. Guiding visitors and school groups through the bush, he has insights into refining the educational dimension of this vital space.

While the Deans family narrative is prominent at the heritage site (through historic Deans Cottage), the perspective of the Ngāi Tūāhuriri, the hapū of the area, remains underrepresented.

Michael highlights outdated signage and insufficient educational resources that currently hinder visitors from grasping the cultural significance embedded in this historically rich site.

Michael notes, “The Deans family relationship with Ngāi Tūāhuriri was quite unique for the time,” underlining the connection where they rented the land and paid Māori workers on a par with their European counterparts, an unusual practice at the time.

Despite the allure of sharing this narrative with international visitors, Michael emphasises the importance of locals understanding the history beneath their feet. “I’d prefer to share the story with one local kid than with 1000 tourists,” he states.

Michael Steenson

Michael draws attention to the practical challenges faced by certain demographics within the park. Uneven paths, courtesy of determined tree roots, pose obstacles for the elderly, parents with youngsters, and those with a disability, often hindering their ability to explore the bush freely.

The Enhancement Project aims to address some of these issues with a brand-new boardwalk. With a commitment to making the Enhancement Project a reality, the campaign to raise funds will continue until the Pūtaringamotu team reaches its $2.4 million goal.

Support the cause by contributing to the project today through the website below or by visiting the house in person. For added convenience, a payWave station for donations is in the lobby. Your support will play a vital role in preserving this essential piece of history and nature for generations to come.

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 Additionally, the signage is outdated, providing visitors with limited information on the cultural importance of this special place.

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 visiting Pūtaringamotu/Riccarton Bush.
  • Provide educational interpretation that encourages engagement and participation.

Donate Now

To ensure the future of Riccarton Bush, $2.4 million is needed to fund the Enhancement Project. Your donation can help protect, conserve, and enhance this important heritage landmark far into the future.

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