Archive for the 'Meola Creek Waititiko' Category

Auckland Three Waters Update

December 16th, 2018

Waititiko Meola Creek’s environmental health suffers from frequent overflows of around 1 mill cubic meters of stormwater and wastewater annually.   It is stormwater which fuels the majority of Auckland environmental overflows, and this is the responsibility of Auckland Council and Auckland Transport, though on Auckland isthmus these organisations pour undisclosed amounts of stormwater into the wastewater network run by Watercare (“combined sewers”).

This diagram shows the current overflow points on Auckland isthmus, including those on Waititiko Meola.

There are a few initiatives under way by government bodies which may lead to some improvements.  These organisations often refer to “Three Waters” meaning: – drinking water, sewage and other waste, and stormwater which arises from roads and urban hard surfaces.

  • Auckland Council’s promised “Three Waters Strategy” work has been going for 18 months or more. Now labelled a discussion paper and published on 4 December:  3 Waters Discussion AC  Public consultation will be held in February-March 2019.
  • Ministry for the Environment produced  “Essential Fresh Water” in October 2018.
  • On November 20, 2018 the Government announced a road map for three waters . (The Three Waters Review is a cross-agency initiative led by the Minister of Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta following water supply issues in Havelock North.)

The last of these covers regulatory reforms, as well as possible reduction of the number of suppliers of drinking water and waste water services. Auckland and Wellington may be least affected because they each already have one large service supplier – Watercare and Wellington Water. The paper stresses that water will remain in public ownership, but that current standards are not enforced and not met.  There is much discussion about costs and funding.

Of most interest for Auckland are planned: measures to give greater transparency around the operation of  wastewater and stormwater systems, and to promote better practice.   This offers some hope that the water reforms will extend beyond the basics of drinking water and wastewater which are reasonably well managed in Auckland by Watercare.

The Auckland Council paper proposes a vision for 2050: Te mauri o te wai o Tāmaki Makaurau – the life supporting capacity of Auckland’s waters – is protected and enhanced.  It is very high level, discussing water values, issues, principles and processes.  It mentions combined sewers, but also claims Auckland Council is: capturing and cleaning stormwater before it reaches the sea. It does not specify where or what volumes are cleaned.

The third paper, Essential Freshwater only touches on stormwater, largely delegating Auckland problems to Auckland Council while focussing on larger rural rivers.  It mentions: it is anticipated that a separate paper will be presented to Cabinet in due course on wetland and estuary protection. The proposed NPS on Indigenous Biodiversity could be an important tool for protecting wetlands. How far will it be into the future before we see any standards here?

One scenario is that the two Government initiatives will focus on regulations and changes which improve drinking water and wastewater outside Auckland and Wellington (for around 50% of the total population though covering most of the area of NZ). Given Auckland Council is already pleading for special purpose vehicles to move approved Watercare spending off its books, it seems unlikely they will spend more on stormwater and combined sewer issues without requirements and standards from central Government.

Auckland Council claims in the next ten years, we expect to invest $7.1 billion in diverse water projects of all sizes across  the region. It also states: Between now and 2048, we expect to have spent around $35.7 billion on water infrastructure.

After lobbying from residents and environmental groups, Auckland Long Term Plan made a start by approving $452 million for spending on stormwater. Council has committed to reduce the volume and number of stormwater overflows on Auckland isthmus, including some separation of combined sewers. They are very clear that Meola catchment is “difficult”, which appears to mean expensive to separate.

This diagram shows  Auckland Council’s promise  to achieve just 10 remaining overflow points, 5 of which are on Waititiko Meola Creek.  The Central Interceptor is expected to take approximately 800,000 cubic meters more fresh water away from Waitemata Harbour and divert it to Mangere Waste Treatment Plant (MWTP).  Manukau Harbour residents rightly claim they have a salt water environment, and MWTP is already the largest freshwater river discharging into the Harbour.

STEPS has made it clear to Auckland Council that ratepayers expect local stormwater treatment. Ideally this means water sensitive design techniques such as rain gardens (see more here ). It should also mean more wetlands, both private and public on the large areas underlain by aquifers. And it will need  significant improvements in the monitoring of compliance and the management of the discharges to the aquifers via “soakage” by Auckland Council Healthy Waters, and Watercare.

Led by SASOC, Aucklanders have communicated to Auckland Council that the status quo for our storm water and our local environment is not good enough, and that Aucklanders expect their city to match up to the standards enjoyed in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Wellington and Christchurch. This will require ongoing spending – probably of the order of magnitude that has already been committed to roads and transport. Ratepayers will have to communicate the need and citizens’ expectations clearly to Auckland Councillors and the Mayor to make that happen.

Western Springs Significant Ecological Area

August 21st, 2018

Western Springs Lakeside Reserve is a taonga, and was identified as top priority #1 restoration reserve in Waitemata Local Board for flora and fauna. Auckland Unitary plan says it the lava rock is an outstanding natural feature, and the entire area is a significant ecological area (SEA) across both land and water. It has magnificent surface lava flows, maturing rock forest, springs and a polluted lake with a waterfowl problem. We expect it to have protection.

We encourage members to make a submission on this key part of Auckland’s lava flow and water heritage. The proposed development plan is now available for consultation until  27 Aug at have-your-say western-springs-lakeside

The draft plan would clean the lake up and make it healthy, feed eels and birds, and remove some large pines. There would be new paths (apparently across the lava flows), updated playground and events areas, addition of deciduous exotic trees especially cherries, to show seasonal change and enhance the Japanese garden. All this in an SEA protected area which includes sensitive rock forest.

We recommend from an ecological perspective: enhance and enrich rock forest, and improve weed and pest management in this forest.  In addition focus is needed by AC on soakage area and aquifer water quality.

 pahoehoe lava

pelargonium inodorum

STEPS presented to the Waitemata Local board at the 21 August business meeting  – link to slides here.

Restoring Auckland’s Puriri Rock Forest

August 10th, 2018

Meola Creek is one of the areas in the Auckland isthmus which has remnants of puriri forest on lava flow.  Auckland Council defines rock forest as critically endangered – see Auckland ecosystem types. Overall only a few hectares remain, mostly near Maungawhau, especially at Withiel Thomas Reserve.

Auckland’s lava rock forest contains hardy broadleaved tree species such as puriri, pohutukawa, karaka, titoki, kohekohe and mangaeo, while podocarp species such as rimu and kahikatea are typically absent. Kawakawa and whau are common. Both these distinctive smaller trees are endemic to NZ and have stunning seed capsules. All these trees provide much needed shade for life in the spring-fed creek waters.

Here puriri flowers are on the left and seeds, flours and leaves on right.  Many photos of all these plants can be found on Plant Conservation Network site.

The longest lava flow in the Auckland Volcanic field originated from Titikopuke (Mt St John) and reached the sea at Te Tokaroa (Meola Reef). Its edge defines the course of Meola Creek. The forest that grew on the Auckland lava flows has always been one of New Zealand’s most locally confined landscape types, and the growth of Auckland city has almost completely destroyed it. A story of heroic large scale forest restoration can be found here. Passionate volunteers have spent 20 years on Maungawhau clearing weeds such as tradescantia to allow natural regeneration of native plants.

Ecological restoration of lava flow forest continues in the Roy Clements Treeway by removing exotics, weeds and replanting with appropriate species. Once established, most plants will self-seed and the rock forest can be sustained.

Watercare provided our first kohekohe in 2017 and it is thriving. STEPS is also working with AELB and Auckland Council organisations to restore more rock forest remnants. Landscape scale weed control of privet and asparagus weed will be needed before planting can take place. If you need more information or would like to be involved please contact STEPS on this website or by Facebook @STEPSNZ

Here whau is on left and kawakawa on right, Roy Clements Treeway August 2018.

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