Rubbish purge helps Puhinui Stream claim clean-up title

10:53 am on 4 November 2016

A south Auckland stream riddled with rubbish just six months ago has won the title of the country's most improved stream.

Puhinui Stream won the award at the New Zealand River Awards last night.

Puhinui stream

Puhinui stream Photo: RNZ / Carla Penman

Back in April, almost 2000 people volunteered to help rid the Puhinui Stream of rubbish, with many astonished at what they found.

Manukau Beautification Trust spokesperson Barbara Carney said over 300 tyres and 200 shopping trolleys were removed from the stream.

"As well as mattresses and ironing boards... [and] furniture thrown over people's fences because they just want to get rid of it.

"It was between nine and ten tonnes of rubbish that we removed in three hours."

Ms Carney also put the stream's improvement down to the efforts of the council water quality monitoring group, Wai Care.

Wai Care co-ordinator Kate Loman-Smith said the Puhinui Stream had never been thought of as much of a beauty spot.

"And that's been really noticeable with the way it's been treated, particularly through the lower reaches, where all of the businesses have turned their backs on that stream.

"They've actually got a really beautiful natural asset there, [but] it has just looked like a drain. So there's been a lot of planting to enhance how it looks and that of course has helped with the water quality."

The award for second place went to Nelson's Maitai River, while Taranaki's Maketawa Stream was third.

The council-led project to clean up Maitai River is described by Mayor Rachel Reese as a clear example of the results that can be achieved through collaboration.

The second most improved river nationally is the Maitai river, which flows through Nelson city. 2016

The second most improved river nationally is the Maitai river, which flows through Nelson city. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

A key partner in the project is community group Friends of the Maitai, and spokesperson Ami Kennedy said they were delighted with the accolade, but not altogether surprised.

"Not at all, I'm going to boast about that. No I think the work that our community have been doing collaboratively has been noted, and that's very pleasing."

The focus had been on understanding toxic algae dangers which have shown up in the Maitai River, improving riverside plantings, and developing wetlands.

There have also been improvements to fish passage areas along the river which is also a source of the town's water supply, and runs through areas of intensive forestry.

Ms Kennedy said Friends of the Maitai had a dedicated team, building relationships with the forestry companies and that had yielded good results.

The council said the focus will remain on improving Nelson's water quality by reducing pollution from roads, roofs and pavements washed into city streams through the stormwater network.

820 freshwater sites were judged nationwide.