The Seven Wonders of Castle Street

The Seven Wonders of Castle Street

The Seven Wonders of the Natural World are incredible and inspiring demonstrations of nature’s power, eclipsed only in recent years by better things like the internet and the Crunchwrap Supreme™.


But you don’t have to travel to the Amazon to be awestruck by natural phenomena. Right here in our backyard, we play host to Seven Wonders equally worthy of reverence: some still thriving, some lost forever.


Castle Street remains as Aotearoa’s oldest and most infamous student quarter. However, its vibrant inhabitants, strong cultural traditions, and wretched architectural features have become increasingly endangered over the years. Starting in the collegiate South and ending in the feral North, Critic Te Ārohi is here to take you on a walk down memory lane, celebrating the Wonders we’ve lost and showing you how to conserve what’s left today.


1. Selwyn Gnomes

Castle Street isn’t known for its warm association with freshers, but our first stop is Selwyn College: home to no less than 200 of them (Disciplis selwynidae, var. primianas). The College is also home to the native breeding population of Selwyn Gnomes (Gnomus selwynidae), which are gifted to and cohabitate with each human resident. Unfortunately, the native population of Selwyn Gnomes remains in steep decline.

These creatures have long been considered an endangered species, being the target of annual poaching campaigns carried out by the local population of domesticated Knox students (Disciplis knoxidae, var. primianas). The rivalry between Selwyn and Knox College is well-known, with much effort going into these poaching campaigns as part of an annual display of territorialism.

While the population of G. selwynidae remains protected today, the patriarch of the colony is remembered as one of the Seven Wonders. This individual, known as Verne the Gnome, was a legendary figure in Selwyn College. He was killed in an attempted kidnapping, when lasso-wielding D. knoxidae brought him to the ground. He died on impact.

The ongoing sporting and cultural competitions between the two colleges are when the gnomes are most at risk. Conservationists are advised to lock their dorms, carry Dove soap, and ward off roving groups of D. knoxidae when they are in heat or on the prowl. Hopefully in the future we can see a thriving wild population of Selwyn Gnomes once again. For now, they remain largely in the care of zoologists and their hosts, D. selwynidae.



2. Deathstar’s Mud Pit

The next spot on our tour is the most recent Wonder to be lost: the mud pit out the front of Deathstar. Like California’s La Brea Tar Pits, this cesspool was once home to a remarkable diversity of microorganisms. By slurping up broken glass and remnants of couches, it has preserved the physical record of Castle Street culture from the harmful effects of solar radiation and weekly recycling.

In its prime, the mud pit covered about ten square metres. An area of this size could support a thriving population of bacteria which, in turn, provided a balancing effect on local populations of Breatha sapiens. It became a sort of figurehead for the filth of Castle Street culture, waded through by all walks of life. Unfortunately, human development and expansion spelled doom for this unique environment.

Following a train derailment (AKA sewage spill) in 2022, the fragile ecosystem was thrown into disarray. Like the Amazon Rainforest, Deathstar’s mud pit was razed and paved over in the summer of 2022. Unwilling to risk the health of local B. sapiens, the property managers sealed the mud pit forever in an asphalt sarcophagus. Algae and sludge was replaced by asphalt and, well, more sludge. There’s still plenty of sludge.

The site now serves as a memorial to all we’ve lost in the name of human expansion, and pays homage to all the crazy bacteria we never got to experiment with. Who knows, maybe there was a cure for cancer brewing in there somewhere. Probably not, though. It was mostly cholera.

3. Tides of Glass

The third Wonder on our walk can be seen all throughout the street, but the areas outside Deathstar are where it’s visible in its prime. Every evening, tidal forces sweep forth massive amounts of broken glass, which is then deposited in laminar sheets across Castle Street. This pattern follows a seasonal cycle, with heavier deposits on weekends, and lower average deposit rates over the summer.

These glass tides are much like a clownfish’s anemone: hazardous to most, save for the few local residents who have evolved an immunity. By surrounding themselves with sharp shards of glass, residents of Castle Street are able to ward off intrusion from outside predators, namely police (Sus domesticus) and cyclists (Celermotus dirotae). However, in recent years, locals have been experimenting with a new form of defence, recognizing that they are not completely immune to the hazards posed by tidal waves of glass.

While the remarkable natural cycles of glass tides will never entirely disappear from Castle Street, their prominence may be in decline. This decline is natural, forced not by overhunting but by the organic evolution of the environment. As these local “clownfish” become more and more self-aware and self-governing, their need for their “anemone” decreases. The loss of this Wonder ought not to be mourned, as it has been eroded not by outside pressures, but by the natural course of evolution.

4. The Mighty Cone Herds


Once upon a time, a visitor to Castle Street would’ve been amazed by wild herds of traffic cones (Conus aurantiaco), with the sounds of their guttural mating calls in the air, proudly lapping up the sun in the cool goo of Deathstar’s mudpit. These mighty beasts travelled in groups of up to a thousand individuals, and their footfalls could be heard from as far away as Grange Street. But not anymore.

Like the Selwyn Gnome, C. aurantiaco has been the victim of overhunting. Prized for their exotic pelts and used widely as an oversized drinking funnel, the traffic cone has been nearly completely driven out of its natural habitat. The herd animals have learned to avoid this area, and on the rare occasions that they do visit, they stick to out-of-reach areas like trees, roofs and the tops of cars.

If you look closely into the windows and doors of many a Castle Street flat, you will see taxidermied corpses of C. aurantiaco. Many residents choose to decorate their homes with at least one of these prized beasts, but some collections have hoarded as many as a dozen. If it weren’t for their adaptability, this remarkable animal may have been lost forever. Truly a cautionary tale.

5. The Undie 500

The Undie 500 was an annual pilgrimage to Castle Street by engineering students from the University of Canterbury (Disciplis canterbureae, var. democeltis). These students commuted to Castle to appreciate its remarkable biodiversity and cultural significance, for obvious reasons. But, like too many other aspects of Castle Street, this Wonder has too been lost.

The pilgrimage followed a complex ritual. Student groups would buy a car for under $500, decorate it elaborately, and then drive from Christchurch to Dunedin while stopping at pubs along the way. As the pilgrimage was taken by more and more students, it grew increasingly out of control, eventually ending in the infamous Castle Street Riots of 2007 and 2009. Unsure of what to do with their cars, the students decided to torch them in the street.

While this pilgrimage traditionally celebrated the local flora and fauna of Castle Street, overzealous participants ultimately doomed the ritual forever. Perhaps in the future it will be reignited, but with so much history already lost, it’s possible that this mass migration of cheap cars and drunk engineering students will never again be seen by humankind.

6. 660

One domicile on Castle Street stands above all the rest: 660. It is no longer the largest nor the most famous, but its history is unparalleled. The building today remains a Wonder, thanks in part to the conservation efforts of a group of former Castle Street locals that named themselves after the site and travelled internationally to raise awareness about the address. Their monetary contributions have secured a future for the flat as a hub of culture as the walls slowly close in on Castle Street, preserving it forever as a National Park.

Visitors to 660 may not be welcome. This is for the best, as too much foot traffic can damage the delicate ecosystem within. Sometimes, the best way to love something is to leave it alone. That being said, the environment contained within 660 is constantly evolving; once it was a hub of debauchery and madness, with vomit-covered drum kits and swiss-cheese walls. Today, it stands more pristine than ever before. Its conversion to a National Park means that its legacy will be preserved for future residents, but that it will never again be truly wild.

Critics have argued that “National Zoo” may be a more accurate description than “National Park”, as this Wonder is not allowed the true agency of a wild animal. They would say that by controlling the culture inside - to any degree - conservationists have essentially put the Wonder in a cage, or a sort of incubator. Nevertheless, the Wonder has been preserved, and will continue to be the poster child for Castle Street tourism.

7. Gardies

Our final stop on this tour of Castle Street is The Marsh, formerly known as Gardies. What was once a thriving watering hole is now a sterile pond, transformed from throbbing student bar to sleek studyspace. The forced metamorphosis of Gardies encapsulates the current state of Castle Street conservation more than any other Wonder, especially given the fact that many current residents are not even aware of its history.

The Gardies of olde was a central node of Castle culture. When it began to struggle financially, students made a plan to buy the bar and run it themselves – a conservationist approach. The University, backed by deeper pockets, was able to outbid them. When they assumed ownership, the University gutted the beast and repurposed it, destroying a critical piece of the Castle Street ecosystem. Much of the local decline in biodiversity has happened in the years since losing this keystone species.

Today, the sleek facade of the building says nothing of the spectacles that used to grace its patrons. It was the ultimate destination of travelling Undie 500 pilgrims and a space for socialisation amongst the residents of the street. Without such a space, the entire ecosystem of Castle Street is threatened. The Marsh today stands as a testament to what we have lost, but also to where we are headed as a species. Away from centralised parties and decentralised study, and towards decentralised parties and centralised study.


As we finish our tour, you are invited to think deeply about the importance of what we have lost, and the ways that we can support what still remains. As New Zealand’s oldest, proudest and most notorious student environment, Castle Street offers what no other locale can: a space for young residents to mingle, meet and misbehave. To learn and grow in a community of their own. It is a critical environment to preserve as we move into a more bureaucratic society. Visit now, while you still can, but remember: take nothing but photos (and drugs), and leave nothing but footprints (and your dignity).

This article first appeared in Issue 4, 2023.
Posted 2:52pm Sunday 19th March 2023 by Iris Hehir and Fox Meyer.