Russell Cavanagh - Founder, Trustee and Local Legend
Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Russell is at home on the water.
Alongside his tireless work for the Rivercare Group, he is Club Captain of the Waitematā Canoe and Multisport Club, and he has spent many happy hours exploring the twists, turns, and tributaries of Te Wai o Pareira/Henderson Creek.
Deeply invested in her well-being, Russell is very much our organisation's 'eyes on the awa'.
"Being on the river in a kayak, one gets to see and experience both the beauty and the many challenges it faces."
It was Russell’s observation of raw sewage flowing into Huruhuru creek, a tributary of the awa, back in October 2018 that sparked the genesis of the Rivercare Group.
Noticing a brown, frothy trail, he discovered a significant discharge spurting into the water from a ruptured sewerage transmission line. Visible only at low tide, it could easily have gone undetected.
Phone calls to Watercare and Healthy Waters ensued. When dealing with agencies, Russell deploys his renowned superpowers of dogged persistence and relentless attention to detail.
Keeping notes of every interaction with those charged with caring for our sewerage and stormwater meant he could later challenge their claims that the rupture had been repaired and the site cleaned up. Unable to let the matter rest, he returned to the area repeatedly to take photos and document progress, finding those claims less than accurate.
Meanwhile, just 1.3km downstream at Taipari Strand our community was swimming, water-skiing, rowing, kayaking, sailing, and fishing with no idea that many thousands of litres of raw sewage were spilling into the water.
Concerned about the lack of public notification and the negative health effects of exposure to raw sewage, he felt motivated to share the information he had gathered on the Te Atatū Peninsula community FaceBook page.
At that time Russell did more to effectively notify and protect the community than the agencies tasked with the responsibility. His findings also illustrated a fragmented and ineffective response. In reporting back to the community, we were alerted not only to the event itself but also to the problems created by the overloaded and failing sewerage infrastructure that runs alongside and underneath our precious natural taonga. Those actions ultimately connected a group of locals who shared concerns about the health of the awa and all those who live and play around it.
A public meeting was held, and Rivercare Group Te Wai o Pareira was formed.
Outside of lockdowns, Russell continues to get out in his kayak, keeping an eye on the awa, collecting litter, reporting pollution events, and contributing to the mahi of the group.
Our community owes a debt of gratitude for his work on behalf of the awa.