Te Wai o Pareira/Henderson Creek is an integral part of my daily life. I have lived on the edge of the awa for twenty years. Daily, I am witness to its ebb and flow, its moods, the play of light on its surface, the life it supports. We swim and kayak in the river. We watch others, fish, sail, play, water-ski and row in the awa. We see the fish jump and the eels swim around the jetty at the bottom of our section. Occasionally, we have visits from dolphins and Owha, the Leopard Seal.
The awa is magical and I love it. Without getting too mystical, I see the awa as a living entity or, put perhaps more practically – a highly complex and dynamic ecosystem.
I was kayaking up the river towards Henderson one evening late in 2018 and I became aware of an unpleasant, but vaguely familiar odour. I had grown up in rural areas and eventually recognised the smell as similar to that given off by a poorly functioning septic tank. This, combined with the significant amount of litter floating in the water, unsettled me. On one hand the awa is beautiful and on the other it is compromised by some pretty detrimental human activity. This was my very own water based ‘Road to Damascus’ moment – a call to action.
Not long after this, I noticed posts by Russell, a local kayaker, on our Te Atatu Peninsula Community Facebook page. He had discovered a significant sewer discharge into the Huruhuru Creek, a tributary to Te Wai o Pareira. Possibly, the source of the sewerage odours, I had noticed around the same time. The discharge was from a ruptured 400mm public sewer under the creek. This was only really obvious at low tide. The discharge from this pipe was simply disgusting. The agencies tasked with managing this event were ineffective, unresponsive, uncoordinated and demonstrated little urgency in dealing with the event. All the while, locals were using the awa, oblivious to the discharge and the risks it posed.
Russell and I were spurred into action. We took this issue to the media and held a well-attended public meeting in February 2019. Speakers from Watercare, Auckland Council. Healthy Waters, our Local Community Board and Community Waitakere spoke of their relationship with the awa and the challenges it faces.
This heralded the beginning of Rivercare Group Te Wai o Pareira. We have begun a long journey to restore the mauri/well-being of our awa. We are under no misapprehensions about the scale of challenge but the awa, our community and the wildlife deserve our best efforts.