National | Tuna

Te Ara Awataha hopes to see the return of ecosystem to Northcote

More than 70 years ago, the Awataha stream on Auckland's North Shore was redirected to flow through underground pipes. Now sections of the stream have been unearthed or 'daylighted' to restore the stream's natural ecosystem including eels.

Te Ara Awataha, Northcote’s new greenway, is a 1.5km network of existing and new reserves running through the Northcote neighbourhood, connecting the town centre, schools, and homes, and is a collaboration between mana whenua, eco group Pātiki, Eke Panuku Development working alongside Healthy Waters and Kāinga Ora.

For Zaelene Maxwell-Butler of Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki, the greenway represents a new day for mana whenua and Awataha.

"Due to the development of Tamaki Makaurau, it was put into the pipe. It pipes out to the moana. As a consequence of that happening, we lose a kai source. But we also create issues in other areas we make flooding and other areas because Papatuanuku still needs to breathe."

"Ngā iwi mana whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau sat with its treaty partner Eke Panuku and said 'We want to daylight the Awataha, whakahoki ki te ao mārama'."

Benefits soon seen

And they have seen the benefits of the project when storms struck and flooded Northcote, with water draining into nearby Greenslade Reserve, which had been lowered to allow water to drain into it.

Sara Zwart, the principal regenerative design lead of the project for Eke Panuku says, "What happens is effectively the overland flow path that was the historic Awataha stream ends up at Greenslade Reserve and it's about six Olympic swimming pools worth of water storage in there."

Neil Henderson from Kaipātiki Eco Project says the daylighting of parts of the stream is an attempt to reinvigorate the once pristine Awataha.

"Part of the theme for this is to bring back the tuna into the system and. technically speaking, there are still tuna here. We also have native fish the kokopu."

"In those days (the 1950s) you just put in a big pipe and let the stream come through a little pipe and of course what happens is the more people who move in here, the more houses we build and the water doesn't get to seep into the ground. The pipes are too small."

Kāinga Ora's Claire Laybourne says the building of 1,700 new Kāinga Ora homes in Northcote is not just about dwellings.

Building communities

"We're not only building houses, we're building communities and, to develop Northcote, we also need the infrastructure to support the housing so that's a big function of what we're doing here."

Janine Williams who is from Ngāti Paoa and Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara came on board to help create art pieces to adorn the area.

"It's a contemporary Māori application of how you tell the story of the ingoa and the mauri of the wai. So as you can see behind me are some of the balustradings and incorporating some graphic contemporary components along the stream."

Part of the greenway flows alongside local school Northcote Intermediate. Assistant principal Zane Cooper says creating an open classroom where students can study the stream's ecosystem will help the children feel a part of the whole project.

"Students will have the opportunity to go down regularly each week and test the water quality and with the return of the tuna, we will start taking counts, looking at water quality, and learning more about that."