Auckland Council’s teams are back in the field now, protecting the wildlife of Tāmaki Makaurau and working on including pest control and water quality enhancement.
But as we venture outside after our COVID-19 quarantines, we all need to play our part by looking after our parks and streams.
Too often, vulnerable urban streams like the Puhinui Stream in Manukau are polluted with household rubbish, choking both their natural flow and wildlife.
The Puhinui catchment is within our Manukau urban regeneration programme, and one of our key priorities is to realise the potential of the Puhinui Stream for both environmental regeneration and the development of healthy neighbourhoods in Wiri and Manukau.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us around the globe that in the absence of humans, the natural world can regenerate quickly. For the first time in 25 years there are clean-air views across Los Angeles city. And on Gahirmatha Beach and Rushikulya Rookery in India, the endangered Olive Ridley Turtles have migrated from the sea to lay egg clutches in record numbers, without interference from human gatherings.
Unfortunately, this respite is all too short for our own Auckland streams and - as we’ve seen by the surge of customers outside take-aways and drive throughs - our appetite for fast foods wrapped in non-biodegradable packaging is back.
We need to help our people on the frontlines by becoming tiaki (protectors) of our local environment, as the health of our streams is directly linked to the health of our people and families.
This belief is being practised locally by the youth of Te Pu-a-nga Maara, a collective of South Auckland people from Makaurau, Manurewa and Papatūānuku Kōkiri Maraes. These young innovators are actively testing the water quality of the Puhinui catchment to monitor and protect the ecology of the stream.
They are also reaching out to educate wider communities on how to care for their stream.
As Zara Rihi Motutere from Te Pu-a-nga Maara explains in this whakataukī (Māori proverb):
“Tuia ki te rangi, tuia ki te whenua, tuia ki te moana. Tuia te herenga tangata. e rongo te po. e rongo ao. Tihei Mauri Ora."
"Resew the binds that connect people to our natural environments by linking them in reciprocal relationships to the heavens, the earth, and the sea. Seek balance. Achieve wellbeing.”
Zara also says: “The wellbeing of people is inextricably linked to the wellbeing of ngā taiao (the environment) and we have an active role to know, love and care for our natural environment.”
We all have a part to play to ensure the ongoing health and wellbeing of our local places. We can do this by disposing of household waste responsibly, picking up rubbish and finding ways to become involved in environmental initiatives such as tree planting in our neighbourhoods.
As Sara Zwart, Principal Regenerative Design Lead at Panuku Development Auckland says: “Returning our urban awa (waterways) to a state of mauri tu (wellbeing) requires all hands on deck.
"COVID-19 has given us a brief respite to spend time in nature and observe the damage that our lifestyles inflict on her. Coming out of this we could work together to be better ancestors to this ancient stream – and show her the care and respect she deserves.”
How can you help the Puhinui Stream?