Sponge City – Tamaki Makaurau

August 28th, 2023

Many families in Tamaki Makaurau Auckland are still suffering from Anniversary Day floods and other weather events early this year. Our thoughts are with them.

Meola Creek flooding behind Mt Albert Grammar School 29 January 2023

Auckland Council (AC) has come up with some immediate responses such as “blue-green networks”:

https://ourauckland.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/news/2023/06/mayor-backs-proposed-blue-green-networks/

STEPS supports AC’s responses. However something much more holistic is required. Recently the Helen Clark Foundation produced a report on Sponge Cities. For people to survive all the future weather events more safely, we need more absorbent cities and fewer concrete, bitumen and hard surfaces. This is becoming more and more important as Government and Council infill our stream catchments in response to the housing crisis.

Sponge cities are more like Tamaki Makaurau in 1800 – with wetlands and plenty of space for rivers to reach the sea. Some of our parks already hold wetlands which slow the course of fresh water to the sea, helping limit flooding of homes. See the restored wetlands on Roy Clements Treeway for example.

In the report below they even suggest that constructed wetlands can replace sewage treatment plants using natural and biological processes to provide the same kind of services. This approach would certainly avoid the conundrum we are now in with Mangere Wastewater plant being exposed to higher tides as the effects of climate change continue to bite us.

The Sponge Cities report puts the work that other cities world wide have already done, and show how well it works in reducing flooding, improving water quality and sequestering carbon. The Link to the report is on the Helen Clark Foundation’s publications page at

Congratulations to the Foundation for bringing such important work to Aotearoa. Auckland could benefit by adopting it right now. We urge Mayor Brown and Auckland Council to work in conjunction with iwi and Government to make Tamaki Makaurau a sponge city,

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