28 Feb 2019

Henderson Creek community group vows to hold authorities to task

11:11 am on 28 February 2019

An Auckland community is vowing to take charge of guarding its local creek in a bid to stop raw sewage, litter and chemicals polluting it.

 Raw sewage pollutes Henderson Creek in Auckland.

Raw sewage pollutes Henderson Creek in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Supplied

The group in Te Atatu Peninsula held a meeting last night with representatives from Auckland Council and Watercare to discuss the future of their awa, Te Wai o Pareira, or Henderson Creek.

The creek begins in Henderson, narrow and wedged between parks and industrial buildings, before it widens out like a ribbon alongside Te Atatu Peninsula and then into Hauraki Gulf.

Kayakers and rowers slice through its water, kids swim in it and dogs fossick on its banks.

But it's rife with problems.

Last year, RNZ reported on a burst wastewater pipe that left floating faeces, sanitary items and wet wipes plastered to the shore.

Te Atatu man Chris Ballantyne set up the Te Wai o Pareira River Care group in response.

"We have a small dedicated group. We're hoping to grow that."

Last night, about 100 people turned up to show their support for the plan.

Representatives from the local board, Swim Safe and Healthy Waters were also in tow.

The community can play a vital role, Mr Ballantyne said.

"The authorities can't do it on their own. The river needs advocacy, and needs guardians, and we see that as our role," he said.

"We can't build pipe networks but we can inform, we can advocate, we can hold the authorities to task."

Mr Ballantyne listed off the main problems plaguing the river.

"172 years of neglect, a huge urban catchment, failing infrastructure, storm water run off, sedimentation."

The creek is worth protecting, he said.

"This awa is part of what defines our community."

"People sail on it, kayak, waterski on it, swim, fish, play."

Dolphins and leopard seals have also been known to visit, and parts of the river are breeding grounds for Inanga - commonly found in whitebait and rapidly declining in population.

Waitakere councillor and chair of the environment and community committee, Penny Hulse, also lives locally.

The way council and Watercare have managed water quality in the past hasn't been cohesive, she said.

"We've got a chance to do something really different ... we're from the west, we can make it up as we go."

A local catchment management plan, supporting groups already working on the peninsular and other aspects of water quality care would be considered.

There are about 41,700 people with connections to 890 kilometres of waste water pipes in the area.

Watercare's Leanne McKenzie said there were 316 overflows last year, mostly due to fat, litter and roots in the pipes.

The first stage of a $540 million pipe upgrade has started. It will redirect wastewater from Māngere to another plant in Rosedale.

Safeswim has also begun its monitoring of the area but regular, up to date results are still some time away, while the team gathers data.