Article in Views On TAP Autumn 2022 Edition
SafeSwim Press Release 29 October 2021.
Persistence & Advocacy: A Winning Combination For a Community's Wellbeing
Thanks to strong efforts from the community, Te Wai o Pareira/Henderson Creek has now been confirmed as part of Auckland Council's SafeSwim programme. This means that as of 1 December the two new sites being monitored along the popular Te Atatū Peninsula waterway; Taipari Strand and Chapman Strand, will have signage advising the public to “Check Before You Swim.”
Water quality in the awa has long been an issue, with levels of E.coli and enterococci regularly exceeding the Ministry of Health's 'safe' levels due to sewage overflows, particularly after rainfall events.
The SafeSwim programme for Te Wai o Pareira, based on data collected in a joint effort with Rivercare Group, enables public notification about whether or not modelling suggests it is safe to be in the water at that time.
Rivercare Group Chair Chris Ballantyne says
"As well as persistent advocacy on behalf of the awa, we've been pushing for and working towards this since 2019. Rivercare volunteers began the process back then in collaboration with SafeSwim, only to have it cancelled last year due to Auckland Council budget cuts when Covid-19 came to our shores. We then managed to secure funding from Foundation North to resume the testing necessary to build an accurate computer model for our awa. It's been quite a process. This is a real breakthrough for the awa and for our community."
Using simple colour-coded pins on a map, SafeSwim allows you to check the water safety of locations you wish to swim at.
A Green Droplet means that there is a low public health risk.
A Red Droplet means there is currently a high public health risk e.g. after a heavy rain event when sewage overflows can occur at these locations.
A Black Pin means a very high-risk alert, indicating that telemetry is showing a wastewater overflow has occurred nearby.
Ballantyne goes on to say
"It has been a frustrating and sometimes frightening burden knowing the water to be unsafe after sewage overflows while much of the community remains unaware. We have made it a priority to notify our network via social media, but the heartbreaking story of a young family swimming and collecting oysters at Taipari Strand pontoon after a recent sewage overflow event illustrates to us that we can't reach everyone that way."
Rivercare Group Te Wai o Pareira is relieved that our community and the general public will soon be aware of the potential risks of using our beautiful awa, especially after heavy rain events.
Chris Ballantyne adds
"This has formed a large part of our group's efforts to date, now the work continues with a focus on advocating for a reduction of those sewage overflows into our awa."
About Rivercare Group Te Wai o Pareira
Te Wai o Pareira is a natural taonga bordering the western side of Te Atatū Peninsula. It includes a range of habitats that support diverse and abundant life.
Our human community swims, sails, rows, kayaks and fishes in the awa, linking the wellbeing of the awa to the health of our community. For some, cultural identity and sustenance are connected to and drawn from it.
Te Wai o Pareira flows into Waitematā Harbour and is therefore linked also to the health of the Hauraki Gulf, which has long suffered from environmental degradation.
Rivercare Group Te Wai o Pareira was formed in 2019 after kayaker Russell Cavanagh discovered raw sewage pumping into a tributary of Te Wai o Pareira. Concerned about public safety and the environmental effects of the spill, Russell contacted the relevant agencies. Finding that response unsatisfactory, he shared his experience with the community, leading him to join forces with another local awa lover, Chris Ballantyne. Together, they have built an organisation of people dedicated to restoring the mauri of Te Wai o Pareira.
We are grateful to our community for their support, and to Auckland Council, The Trusts, The Trusts Community Foundation, and Foundation North for the funding we have received to date. We would like also to acknowledge our relationships with SafeSwim and Watercare, whose team members have been open and generous with information.
Press Release 26th May 2021
Watershed event for Te Wai O Pareira results in working group
A groundswell of political and community support is building to reverse the declining health of West Auckland river Te Wai O Pareira / Henderson Creek. This issue was front and centre at a hui held on Friday 7 May, convened by Phil Twyford MP and was a watershed event for Rivercare Group Te Wai O Pareira. The hui brought together politicians, agencies, iwi and community groups to discuss the various issues facing the awa and develop a plan to restore its mauri / life force.
Te Wai O Pareira is the largest freshwater tributary flowing into the Waitematā Harbour in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. The river suffers from numerous sewage overflows that result in harmful levels of E. coli and Enterococci, posing a health risk to the public. Increased housing intensification in Te Atatū Peninsula and further upstream has also resulted in high levels of litter, pollution inflows, and sedimentation.
Representatives from local and central government were present at the hui, including MP Phil Twyford who chaired the event, members of the Henderson Massey Local Board, and MP Chris Penk. Also present were representatives from Watercare, Healthy
Waters and Te Atatū Marae Coalition, and community groups including Community Waitakere, Sustainable Coastlines, Forest & Bird, Birds NZ and the Whau Walkway Trust. Rivercare Group Te Wai O Pareira [RCGTWOP] facilitated the event.
“Our intention is to bring the sad state of Te Wai O Pareira into focus and progress this issue in the political spectrum,” says Chris Ballantyne, Chair of RCGTWOP. “We are advocating for the awa, its native species, and our community that draws so much joy and sustenance from it.”
The key outcome of the hui was agreement on forming a Te Wai O Pareira working group, comprising representatives of RCGTWOP, Watercare, Healthy Waters, tangata whenua, councillors and interested NGO’s to develop an action plan to work towards restoration of Te Wai o Pareira.
RCGTWOP are tasked with developing the framework and action plan for establishment of the working group, and MP Phil Twyford will facilitate further action by the working group as required.
A public meeting will be held at some point in the future to raise
awareness and garner more community support.
Ballantyne summarises, “To date, the agencies have had an incoherent, fragmented and failed model for caring for the awa. Hopefully the take-away from the hui is a working group that has a vision, plan, accountability, and a means of communicating effectively with the community.” He adds, “To do so, we will require resourcing.”