16 Aug 2023

Auckland residents asked to avoid dangerous flood-damaged walkway

From Morning Report, 8:53 am on 16 August 2023
A sign for the Oakley Creek walkway, with a fence in front of it.

The Great North Road entrance to Oakley Creek Photo: RNZ/Katie Fitzgerald

Auckland Council is asking residents to keep away from a once-popular creek that has lain in ruin since flooding earlier this year.

The Oakley Creek waterfall was once a popular spot, but that all changed after January's flooding.

Sharon Erditch was on her bike making her way home after an aborted attempt to go to the ill-fated Elton John concert on 27 January when she came across Oakley Creek.

She said it was quite a sight to behold.

"We saw the bridge that we used pretty much daily floating on the river, on the Oakley Creek. You couldn't call it a creek at that point. It was definitely a river."

Local board chair Margi Watson said the creek's catchment area includes large suburbs like New Windsor and Mount Roskill, and on 27 January it took on a lot of water.

"It's carrying all that water that we are receiving in parts of Auckland, and it's done significant damage. We don't like it as people, all that rain, the awa also doesn't like all that rain."

A destroyed bridge surrounded by bush.

A damaged section of the Oakley Creek walkway. Photo: RNZ/Katie Fitzgerald

Water rushed down Oakley Creek and, on its way to the sea, it crashed over the popular waterfall and walk, laying waste to the boardwalk and bridges that once stood there.

 Watson said the damage it caused was extensive.

"There's been slips down there, there's been bridges washed out, there's been paths washed away. So, the damage is quite significant."

Since then, the path has been closed and fenced off. Erditch said it was a big loss for the community.

"Oakley Creek was, in my opinion, an underutilised gem of creation on the parks listings in Auckland and it was always lovely to see how many people were using it."

Watson said while the creek had been shut, she had heard of people making their way into the closed areas, despite warnings not to.

"We know it's unsafe down there, as they do once they've been down there. The signs are there for a really good reason, just to warn people it is a dangerous space currently. We know some land is still moving in Auckland and staying away until it's a safe place to be is the best advice really."

A section of path washed away, foundations of where the path previously still stood are visible, along with greenery.

A damaged section of the Oakley Creek walkway. Photo: RNZ/Katie Fitzgerald

It's going to be a while before the walkway is useable, in the meantime, the Friends of Oakley Creek group has been working to repair some safe areas of the creek.

Spokesperson Wendy John said it was clear there was a lot of work to do, but there had been progress.

"We have been working quite hard to clear a lot of the areas. We're doing some infill planting in sites that we can get to, where we've cleared them. Nature will bounce back as it is already doing."

Auckland Council was not available for an interview, but in a statement it said ongoing bad weather had prevented it from being able to fully assess the damage to the walkway and determine what remediation work was needed.

Parts of the northern walkway near the waterfall were not safe, and fencing and signage had been installed to stop people from accessing it, it said.

Residents are urged not to access any fenced off areas and report any damage to fencing or signage to the council.