St Lukes Environmental Protection Society Protecting Meola Creek's environs since 2005

St Lukes Environmental Protection Society (STEPS) was incorporated in 2005. Its purpose is to protect and enhance the environment and amenities in the St Lukes area. Read more ...

Auckland’s Urban Forest and Tree Protection

March 19th, 2021

Mature trees in Auckland under increasing threat. Ewen Cameron, President Auckland Botanical Society Inc writes in March 2021 ABS Newsheet: It’s been a bad week [February 2021] for Auckland’s mature trees:

  • A rimu and pohutukawa were felled at 15 Henry
    Street, Avondale.
  • “While we were all asleep at the wheel, today (February 17th) the Greenlane area (160 Campbell Rd) lost four pōhutukawa, five puriri, two rimu and a kauri; all very large, established trees that have been there for over 100 years (as well as
    shrubs like native cabbage trees)” – Mark Lockhart pers. comm.
  • Also, at Campbells Bay Primary School, the local community are fighting the Ministry of Education (MOE) to stop them from removing seven mature pohutukawa that have been part of the landscape for about 100 years. The school board approved a
    plan that removed the trees prior to Christmas and are still waiting for MOE to come up with an alternative design (if they do).
  • On Friday 12th, the 120yr old impressive macrocarpa tree on the corner of Great North Road and Ash Street, on public land but at the margin of an Ockham housing development, was felled. It was a Scheduled Notable Tree in the Unitary Plan, until Auckland Council (contentiously non-notified) approve its removal on 23 December 2020. After a long protest and brave tree-sit, Big Mac was felled. It was interesting to see Mark Todd, director and co- founder of Ockham Residential, on national TV saying that tree protection should be reinstated immediately.
  • Evidently the protection of the Canal Road site is now the longest tree occupation in NZ history. On 12 February I revisited the Canal Rd site and was pleased to see that no more trees had been felled.

The local Mana Rakau group were still present with signs, a tent, tree hammock in place, and all in good spirit. Many shirts were flying on rope lines and looked very colourful. These shirts had been donated by arborists in support of saving the native trees on the site. Auckland Council has still been silent on this “standoff.” I was then very saddened to learn on February 16th that some lowlife had overnight drilled  and poisoned all of the large trees, apart from the scheduled Pohutukawa and the titoki under its drip-line. Work is being done to try and dilute the poison – let’s hope they are successful.

The only remaining hope for many of the mature trees in Auckland is for Auckland Council and the Minister for the Environment, David Parker, to reinstate the General Tree Protection rules, as it used to be before the National Government required the protection removed from the Unitary Plan.

EMW Postscript: Note that the trees at Canal Road have now been cut down in March after 245 days of community protest. Some Canal Road photos are here.

Further background to some law changes which could protect mature forest, can be found at MFE site. Other views on changes needed are here, and some Auckland impacts here. As community members we can let our local politicians know our views.

Auckland Long Term Plan – Watercare response on Western Isthmus Program

March 19th, 2021

Kia ora koutou,

A reminder that Auckland Council is consulting on its Long Term Plan 2021-2031 Use the link to give your support to the extension of the Water Quality Targeted Rate and sustain improvements to stormwater infrastructure on the Auckland Isthmus. Closing time: 12 noon Monday 22 March.

With reference to our prior post below, Anin Nama from Watercare has provided responses below, and indicated willingness to discuss.

Q Which Western Isthmus projects are stopped?  Or will not start? As a result of Watercare Board decision of 23 December 2020? A: The Western Isthmus progarmme has not stopped and is funded to be completed by 2029.  Committed project will continue, including works that integrate with CI. However, while funding has been reduced in the first 4 years, we will still continue with the design of the works.

Q: Which overflows, creeks or catchments are affected?.  A: None, as the overall programme is still scheduled for completion by 2029.

Q: What benefits or usage of the Central Interceptor is delayed for 3 years? A: CI is still scheduled for completion by 2026 and will collect the large overflows in Meola and other overflows along its route.

Q: When will Eastern Isthmus project start ?  Will it now proceed regardless of delays in the West?.  A: The Watercare portion of the Eastern Isthmus is scheduled to start in 2025, subject to Healthy Water’s proposed targeted rate being approved in the current LTP process.

Q: What impact does this Watercare work have on the benefits of spending by Auckland Council Healthy Waters of the WQTR raised for water quality?  A: The benefit of the WQTR allows separation to commence early and reduce the volume of stormwater entering the wastewater network.  This allows Watercare to commence the necessary wastewater upgrades in the Eastern Isthmus.

STEPS looks forward to ongoing progress on water in the Auckland isthmus generally, particularly in the Western isthmus for the rest of this decade.

Ngā  mihi nui, Elizabeth Walker

STEPS thanks Councillor Fletcher and Margi Watson Chair of Albert Eden Local Board who acknowledged our letter and the questions raised, as did member Jon Turner Member of Puketapapa Local Board.

Waititiko Meola Creek – debris after floods (S Elliott)
Waititiko Meola Creek – debris on Cyperus sedge plant (S Elliott)

Clean Water Infrastructure: Letter to Councillors Fletcher, Casey and Albert-Eden Local Board

March 12th, 2021

Kia ora Albert Eden Local Board, Councillors Fletcher and Casey,

We need your help please in relation to the Long Term Plan.  Unless there is visible and strong advocacy from you as our elected representatives on water infrastructural issues, the pattern of many decades will be repeated, and the inner Western Isthmus suburbs will continue to be the waste water and stormwater receptacle for Auckland.  

Auckland Council Long Term Plan submissions close on 22 March.  AC is looking to extend Water Quality Targeted Rate (WQTR) by another 3 years to enhance water quality in Auckland.

While this sounds worthwhile, the reality of what work is happening in western isthmus suburbs casts doubt on the benefits of spending on this program.

On 23 December the Watercare Board delayed for at least 3 years: half  their work on waste water pipe renewals, and their work on Western Isthmus program.  (See background and news story below).

Last night Auckland Council held an LTP session on WQTR, where the Central and Eastern Wards were very well represented. https://akhaveyoursay.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/webinar-events

There is a lot of pressure from these Councillors to proceed with the Eastern Isthmus water infrastructure work. No answers were given on the changes to the Western Isthmus Program – though apparently Watercare may be asked.

Further, both Orakei Local Board and Waitemata Local Board both have specific local initiatives in the long term plan where “wastewater stormwater” and “water quality improvements” are  key advocacy initiatives for 2021-2031. We understand both have undertaken a formal process whereby the board will monitor water infrastructure projects / issues and represent local impacts and interests in influencing the directions taken by Healthy Waters and Watercare. We cannot see what Albert Eden LB will do on water advocacy and water infrastructure in the LTP proposal.  We cannot see any reflection of the importance of storm water and waste water infrastructure in our rohe and on local people and their health.

Requests to Councillors and Local Board:

  • In the interests of local democracy, we wish to know please, prior to completing our submissions, what Western Isthmus work has now been stopped for at least three years by Watercare Board’s decision of 23 December ?
  • To inform our LTP submissions, we request that Healthy Waters and Watercare jointly outline the implications of the decision and which Western Isthmus water projects are stopped for at least 3 years. This needs to be done by say 17 March to give communities and submitters at least 2-3 days to absorb the implications and prepare informed Long Term Plan submissions for 22 March.  A zoom meeting is suggested.
  • Below are a few questions:  In short – why should we continue to support WQTR (water quality targeted rate) when these delays sound exactly like the delays we have had for the past 50 years or more:  the inner western isthmus receives the most overflows and  poses too many challenges – let us sweep those areas under the rug again.   This poses issues of community trust and we request that Healthy Waters and Watercare front it with our Governing Body members and Local Board, as well as the public.

Background:  

It is widely acknowledged that Waitītiko Meola Creek has the most combined storm and waste water overflows in Auckland.  This small creek flows through the heart of Albert-Eden-Puketāpapa Ward and Albert Eden Local Board area. Watercare and Healthy Waters had jointly planned and initiated the Western Isthmus (Water) Program (WIP) using money from WQTR, and the first 10 years of expenditure were to target the well known “combined sewer” issues in our rohe – the Western Isthmus  https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/environment/looking-after-aucklands-water/water-quality-targeted-rate/Pages/western-isthmus-water-quality-improvement.aspx

Here is this week’s news story on the Watercare decision:   https://www.newsroom.co.nz/watercare-seeks-government-help-with-25-billion-infrastructure-hole 

This blog includes links to the Watercare Board paper cancelling Western Isthmus for 3 years.  https://www.meolacreek.org.nz/2021/03/04/auckland-long-term-plan-2021-2031-western-isthmus-water-problems/

Questions: 

  1. Which Western Isthmus projects are stopped,  or will not start as a result of Watercare Board decision of 23 December 2020?
  2. Which overflows, creeks or catchments are affected?
  3. What benefits of the Central Interceptor are delayed for 3 years, as a result of stopping Watercare western isthmus work?
  4. When will Eastern Isthmus project start ?  Will it now be able to proceed regardless of delays in the West?
  5. What impact do delays in this Watercare waste water work have on the benefits of spending by Auckland Council Healthy Waters of the WQTR raised for water quality? 

Request to Western Isthmus representatives:

  • We seek the pro-active involvement of all our western isthmus politicians in water and water infrastructure issues.  The quality of life for your mokopuna and future generations of Aucklanders depends on us all being engaged, active and visible in relation to cleaning up our harbours and creeks.  We need your leadership.

Ngā  mihi nui,

Elizabeth Walker

www.meolacreek.org.nz

https://www.facebook.com/STEPSNZ/

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