New home for Christchurch Plane Table

It’s not often that the success of one Rotary project renders a previously successful Rotary project inoperable!

In 1968, the Rotary Club of Christchurch, NZ, installed a plane table at Cracroft Reserve, just north of the Sign of the Takahe, to serve as a guide to the various peaks of the Southern
Alps visible from that vantage point.

To counteract the ongoing problem of low-hanging clouds, a theodolite camera was used to take a series of transparencies, which were projected onto a wall and then reduced to working size. The final drawings were then pasted onto a wooden mock-up. The resulting table shows an outline of the Southern Alps, with bearing lines engraved on the steel pointing in the direction of the different towns and peaks. Engraved on the rim is a map of the South Island and the alpine skyline.

The table was originally situated on a rocky promontory covered in rough undergrowth. This undergrowth was cleared and around 1,000 trees and shrubs were planted by Rotarians and members of the Summit Road Scenic Society.

Fast forward some 50-odd years, and it is perhaps ironic that these same trees and shrubs were all grown up and were now blocking the view of the Southern Alps from the plane table, rendering it inoperable!

Trimming or removing the trees was not an option, so relocation was the only alternative. The process began as a potential Rotary Club of Christchurch Centennial Project in 2021, which was to be celebrated in 2022. However, it became clear that the project wouldn’t be completed until well after the centenary celebrations.

Later in the process, Charlie Rattray and Michael Gorman, of the Rotary Club of Christchurch, teamed up with Professor Andy Buchanan, a retired engineering professor from the University of Canterbury, to establish a new site for the plane table in consultation with the Christchurch City Council.

After three years of planning, the plane table was relocated to its new home at Victoria Park in March. It sits just off the Latters Spur Track between the Victoria Park children’s playground and picnic area and the dog park.

Park Ranger Nigel Morritt obtained a price for relocation of $5,415.95, which was approved by the Rotary Club of Christchurch Board as a grant.

The new location is more public than its previous home, so is less likely to suffer vandalism, and Ranger Nigel has assured members that it wouldn’t get overgrown by trees!