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intensive orchard development on basin floor, hydro-dam infrastructure, Roxburgh bridge over rocky gorge, pine plantation on extensive tailings beside river


Between Roxburgh Dam and Roxburgh the Clutha River flows through an oval basin formed in the structural depression between the schist block mountains of the Old Man Range and the westward tilted central Otago peneplain block. The floor of the depression measures about 6km by skm and lies at 80-200m altitude. The strongly rolling rocky hills rising gradually away to the east attain altitude of 600m or more; enclosing on the west side the high, curving, east-facing escarpment of the Old Man Range rises sheer from the valley floor to near1y 1300m altitude culminating in broad rolling summits of tall tussock, cushion field, rock pavement and alpine bogs. Whilst broadly planar in nature with only shallow stream dissection, extensive slumping on its slopes produces a finer textured ripply to hummocky terrain creating dramatic visual effects in clear low light conditions.

Blocky lowland tors are notable near Roxburgh.

The Roxburgh Dam is yoked across the rocky neck of the Roxburgh gorge at the upstream end. Roxburgh township with its river bridge sits at the downstream neck where rocky spurs almost touch across the valley again.

A broad subtle spur on the Old Man Range marks the transition line between the Old Man/Old Woman and Umbrella Land Types. The Old Man Range is within the Waikaia Ecological Region, the Clutha River being the chosen boundary between this region and the drier warmer Central Otago Region which includes all the landscape on the true left of the river (ManorPurn District).

Stepped terraces of alluvium of varying inter- and post glacial ages fill the valley, separated on the true left by a high steep scarp rounded with age and weathering. The river is entrenched in a rock-bound gorge below the dam and continues in an entrenched broadly curving channel in these outwash surfaces, echoing the broad curve of the Old Man Range escarpment right round to Roxburgh. There is no modern floodplain. Around the base of the enclosing slopes, piedmont fans spread out over the terraces and merge with them.

The lower terrace treads adjacent to the river have been extensively worked by dredges and sluicing, leaving disturbed boulder and gravel surfaces with chaotic topography, ponds and pest plant cover. The intact Ladysmith dredging tailings opposite Roxburgh are now the focus of an historic walk.



The climate is subhumid: drier and more extreme than subhumid sections further downstream but not as extreme as upstream sections .. It enjoys all the typical characteristics of Central Otago - long hot summers with clear days; intense winter cold with frequent frosts but free of late spring frosts; also often clear with temperature inversions and persistent fog in the valleys; fog on the high ranges at other times, and the high range is capped with snow in winter. Annual rainfall is around 450-500mm but increases markedly with altitude, where annual precipitation on top of the Old Man Range is

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Photos clockwise from top left:

View up river towards Roxburgh Dam and Lake/Gorge Basin floor is a patchwork of orchards and green fields A typical river view

Roxburgh Bridge, Roxburgh Dam

Open cast coal mining (in middle left of river) Roxburgh, with area oftailings under pines

closer to 1500mm some of it collected as snow and fog.

Lignite coal deposits are a feature of the valley, where Tertiary Manuherikia sediments have been trapped in depressions along the fault boundary. These extend in pockets along a north-south line, along the otd Man Fault. There is a small mine at Coal Creek (hence its name).

Landuse is marked by its contrasts. The more fertile easy lands of the valley floor in the subhumid climate support extensive orchards forming a rectilinear mosaic gridded with tall poplar shelterbelts in places. Remaining areas are cultivated paddocks for intensive stock grazing. A thick stringer of willows line the single thread river on both sides, spreading into dredged areas adjacent and intermixing with pines. The surrounding hills in contrast are brown and grey grassland, scrub and rock. Exotic pasture and dry land naturalised plants such as sweet brier along with matagouri and broom cover the lower rolling country and foot slopes, grading into short tussock then snow tussock at around 900-1000m. Extensive sheep grazing on large sheep stations is the main land use. The dam complex occupies the upstream neck with the associated hydro village, a small collection of houses and a lodge. Roxburgh township lies at the opposite downstream end. SH8 follows the curving western wall. The Roxburgh Hydro-Millers Flat Road follows the left side, climbing up on to and crossinq the high terrace where there is an airstrip, a wide open grassy area in contrast to the compartmentalised orchard trees adjacent.

A race course is also situated up here, next to the airfield.

The prevailing impression is of an enclosed basin, with intensive productive use of the floor dominated by orcharding and flavoured by coal; in marked contrast to the imposing "cold" easterly snow tussock face of the otd Man Range rising to a distant and enticing tor studded alpine summit often mysteriously wreathed in mist. And to the east, dry brown scrubby hills dotted with tors and outcrops roll away into the distance.

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Roxburgh Dam to Roxburgl1

Whole section is; one reach


All special sites and places are of cultural origin and apart from the dam are historic in nature.

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LAND TYPE: 20 Dry Inland Basins and Major Valley 22 oio Man/o.ld Woman

23 Knobbys



Basin and Range Land BR3 (Roxburgh) range crest to range crest


Umbrella District (WAIKAIA REGlo.N), all true right rangelands

Manorburn District (CENTRAL o.TAGo. REGlo.N), all hilVplateau country on true left

10 Dunstan (Old Man Range) to west and 13 Lammenaw to the east, all true I~ft land (river separates the two)



variable moderately low, high,

higher degree of naturalness over range slopes with extensive grazing use based on AOSTD short tussock grassland; dominance of natural elements in natural patterns.

As terrain becomes lower in altitude and more rolling, naturalness decreases with increase in cultivated areas, shelter planting, orchards, subdivision into paddocks, etc. Valley floor has relatively low degree of naturalness due to extent of intensive development in orchards and cultivated pasture; greatest concentration of settlement including township of Roxburgh and the hydro village area.

Distinctiveness variable

Vividness low, moderate


within the valley floor, this quality is generally low although the intensity of orchard development is distinctive of the central. Otago area. The broad structure of the valley is more memorable particularly the high steep broadly curving scarp of the Old Man Range and the narrow crescent of valley floor between the river and the toe of the range. The strong contrast between flat highly modified green valley floor and steep relatively undeveloped brown range slope is also a vivid image, Rolling terrain to the east is less remarkable. Short rocky gorge sections of the river at the hydro dam and at Roxburgh are more distinctive and memorable, due to narrowness and rocky terrain, with bridge spanning river at Roxburgh. The dam area is memorable for the degree of modification and the dam structure itself.



not unique - developed valley/basin floors flanked by fault block mountains are repeated through the course of the river, although each basin area has its own character due to climate and the structural shape of the basin and extent of horticultural use relative to pastoral use. A single thread willow lined river channel in outwash plain is typical of the Alexandra, Roxburgh and Teviot basins.



the overall tectonic structure of the basin is clear, with strong contrast between range slope and valley floor. The landslide topography of the range slope is clearly expressed under the uniform grassland cover. However intensive development of the basin floor tends to mask landform patterns and has removed natural vegetation patterns and legibility values are lower. Location of the dam and Roxburgh township at rocky 'pinch points' makes sense and adds to legibility. Willow stringers weaken legibility as the natural bank forms are hidden from view. Dredged areas and gravel pits have no legibility value.

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at a broad scale the pattern of land use reflects the different landforms and makes sense, Within the valley floor however coherence values weaken due to the widespread intensive devel.opment, where geometric patterns of orchards and paddocks often do. not reflect finer details of landform patterns. They are a cultural pattern superimposed over the natural pattern. The repetition of elements in the same patterns is a coherent aspect however giving overall unity to the basin floor character. Discordant elements are gravel workings, conifer plantations and conifer woodlots on the hillsides, tracking

and roads on sloping land where it does not follow natural
land fonn. The location of the urban areas tucked in under
the hill at the pinch points is a coherent response.
Complexity moderate the river follows a simple curving course through outwash
Diversity plain mostly which offers little mystery and visual interest.
Mystery The almost continual stringer of trees along the river does
create mystery but it is not such a positive factor as what is
glimpsed through gaps is more of the same - there is little
reward in discovery and longer distance views are
frustrated by the tree cover. There is greater diversity in the
surrounding landscape but it tends to be order and
predictability with the repetition in elements and patterns
because of the extent of orchard development.
Overall the desire to explore and discover is not high in this
Open variable intensive development on the valley floor with a small scale
Character low, high landscape pattern and extensive tree planting reduces
open character, compared to the open grasslands and low
intensity land use of the surrounding range lands.
Openness variable similarly, openness is much reduced on the basin floor due
low, high to the frequency of buildings and is lowest in the urban
areas. The value is high on the surrounding range slopes,
where seml-lntensive (on over-sown or cultivated pasture)
to extensive (on unimproved and AOSTD tussock land)
pastoralism is the main land use.
Solitude low sense of separation from intensive land uses and human
activity, traffic and domestic development is not high along
this section as these uses are typical of the river landscape
Landscape LOW TO
Quality MODERATE Natural Character

Natural character is moderately low (valley floor) to moderate {lower hill country) to high (range summit areas) over this section of the river.

The river landscape corridor is generally highly modified due to intensive pastoral and orchard development. This land use is complete in extent through the main part of the valley, using all the available alluvial flats and rolling slopes. Whilst many of the elements are products of 'nature' (trees, grass, crops, animals) their patterns of distribution and the processes controlling them are not natural. The extensive orchard areas in particular are artificial in pattern and process.

The river channel itself is of natural appearance although the continuous willow stringer is less than natural even though it is due to the natural process of vegetative reproduction. The rocky channel area below the dam has a stronger natural character downstream of the spillway area, which has a revetment of imported boulders forming artificial looking banks.

Natural character is stronger where there is hill terrain, particularly rough, rocky and/or steep terrain. Grass cover is less manicured looking and there is self-sown broom, kanuka and matagouri cover in natural patterns. The cover of willows, broom, perennial weeds, etc,. in disturbed areas of tailings is more natural in appearance but the chaotic nature of the topography is not natural and the overall impression is of a disturbed area due to human interference rather than a natural area.

Natural character strengthens with altitude with increase in indigenous cover (tussock and scrub) and fewer fences and no buildings. The summit of the Old Man Range is highly natural.

Natural character is weakest in the urban area of Roxburgh although the rocky hills around and the river give a sense of a natural setting. The dumping of hard waste (broken concrete, etc) on the bank detracts from the naturalness of the channel close to the bridge.


• clearance of remaining indigenous cover

• prevention of indigenous cover regaining presence in gullies and on steeper

slopes and along streams

• visible access tracking on hillsides and insensitive fencing

• insensitively sited and designed woodlots

• increased presence of built form and domestic development next to the river

and structures built next to it or across it

• encroachment of orcharding, dairying, etc, close to the river's edge

• modification of the river channel, gravel extraction

• dredging




• allow regeneration on hillsides

• remove willows, replant with more appropriate species

• open river up to views from the road

• plant out dredge tailings with native species

• maintain a adequate physical buffer to the river from intensive activities

• avoid domestic development or primary industry infrastructure within 100- 200m of the river

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Roxburgh Township

contains several historic buildings, the bridge, riverside walk, a couple of dredge wrecks in the river

2 dredge wreck

3 Coal Creek Methodist Church 4 Remains of a swing bridge

5 Roxburgh Hydro Dam

the first hydro structure built on the Clutha River built 1948-1956



Ladysmith Walk

tailings of the Ladysmith dredging operation 1900

2 Town Riverside Walk passes historic bridge piers

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May 2006