Manukau Harbour Forum Chair’s Report July – August 2021

The “Synthesis of State of the Environment Monitoring in the Manukau Harbour” report was published at the end of June. The report provides a reliable data set to refer to in our advocacy around improving the Harbour, based on data going back to 1965.

The report confirms that the Manukau has been degraded due to decades of human activity surrounding the Harbour. Massive deforestation over the course of human occupation, high levels of nitrates in the horticultural flatlands, high levels of sediment runoff in the Northern Harbour and along the Awhitu peninsula, high levels of zinc and copper runoff from roads in the catchment, high level of pest plants and animals, and degraded streams feeding into the Harbour all contribute to a degraded ecosystem.

The report shows that there have been improvements in water quality and air quality; however, these are primarily minor improvements, starting from a low level. Coastal water quality in the Harbour is the worst in Auckland, and I believe this should be reflected in the investment allocated by Governing Body. Thankfully, the Harbour has some great swimming spots which can be seen on https://www.safeswim.org.nz/ but there are also a high number of unswimmable beaches.

The report will be published yearly from here on, and we have asked that the next iteration include an analysis of fish stocks based on the data gathered by MPI.

The report outlines much of the work being done by the Council to improve the Harbour, and it has been heartening to see the support from Councillors to improve the Harbour. To ramp up addressing the issues around the Harbour will require investment from Central Government, with potential regulatory changes needed down the line. I would like to see a stocktake of the volunteer work being done around the Harbour, although it would probably double the size of the report!

There is a need for a restoration plan for the Harbour’s ecosystem, one developed in partnership with mana whenua and looking at all of the avenues we can take to rehabilitate the ecosystem, including looking at how we manage contaminants entering the catchment on land.

At our last workshop, we had an update from Sophia Olo-Whaanoa and Kowhai Olsen from Makaurau Marae on the excellent work they have done around the Oruarangi Creek and the Harbour itself. We also finalised the budget for the next financial year, with confirmation of funding for our co-ordinator, a comms plan, mana whenua hui and the youth sustainability wananga that has been very successful.

Manukau Harbour Forum Chair’s report: August – September 2021

Manukau Harbour Forum Chair’s report –August 9th – September 24th

  • 11th August – Meeting with new Manukau Harbour Forum Coordinator and MHF Deputy Chair Alan Cole.
  • 20th August – Three Waters Reforms discussion via SKYPE.
  • 30th August – Attended Watercare Board meeting via SKYPE.
  • 30th August – Manukau Harbour Forum executive team meeting via SKYPE.
  • 3rd September – Local Government New Zealand Three Waters reform discussion.
  • 15th September – Environment and Climate Change Committee meeting on the Auckland Water Strategy
  • 22nd September – Environment and Climate Change Committee meeting on the Auckland Water Strategy
  • 24th September – Presenting to the Southern Chairs Forum on behalf of the Forum.

The majority of the period covered by this report was spent in Level 4 Lockdown, reducing the ability to meet in person. I am lucky enough to live close to the Waikōwhai Walkway and have enjoyed numerous bush walks and bird watching over the lockdown period.

The Forum is very lucky to have secured the services of Dr Julie Chambers as the Forum’s new coordinator. Dr Chambers has co-chaired the Tamaki Estuary Environmental Forum and has bought some excellent energy to the role. Julie has five ‘focus areas’ – Strategy and planning to achieve the vision of the Forum, collaboration with friends of the Forum, building the knowledge base of the Forum, building relationships with mana whenua and administration. I look forward to working with her over the next year.

I was pleased to be able to connect members of the community with the correct council staff to get navigation lights in the Harbour fixed. These lights have an interesting list of owners, with a mix of private and public ownership, meaning a fix is not always easy.

I wrote an article discussing the State of the Harbour report for Clarks Beach’s “Greenie” magazine’s August issue. This has been well received, and I have opened up dialogue with several interested community members who share our passion for protecting and restoring the Manukau Harbour.

I was, unfortunately, unable to attend August’s meeting of the Manukau Harbour Forum due to a family emergency. There was a presentation on the excellent youth wananga programme the Forum part-funds and the “closing the gap” programme aimed at reducing sediment into the environment from construction across Tāmaki Makaurau.

I presented an update to the Southern Local Board Chairs Forum on the Forum’s Work Programme and the highlights of the first half of the term.

The Three Waters reform could have big effects on how water is managed around the Harbour, particularly the inclusion of stormwater into the reform. Healthy Waters have been doing some excellent work, and we await more information on the proposed reform. The discussions I attended on it reveal the work that needs to be done to get this to a place I would feel comfortable supporting.

Jon Turner (Puketāpapa Local Board)

Chair of the Manukau Harbour Forum

Manukau Harbour Forum Chair’s Report April – June 2021

Over the period covered by this report, I have been busy in my new role as Deputy Chair for the Puketāpapa Local Board and work going on with the Harbour Forum. Several events I have attended have allowed me to represent both roles, and the lens I have around the Manukau Harbour has informed our board’s submissions to the Governing Body.

It has been a busy time for the Council with consultation on the 10 Year Long Term Plan, Regional Land Transport Plan and end of Financial Year all taking place within a short period of time.

Our last workshop was on April 9th and was a very interesting meeting, covering:

  • Initial discussions around the Forum’s work programme for the next financial year.
    • Discussions around having Kainga Ora present at a workshop, looking at the similarities across the boards Kainga Ora is working in and encouraging them to see the Manukau Harbour as a wider catchment that connects these areas.
    • Update from Conservation Volunteers on their Papakura Stream work. Lots of trees being planted, funding for fences made of recycled plastic on a number of farms.
    • Te Whakaoratanga I te Puhinui: The Puhinui Regeneration Strategy session was a fascinating look at the work Panuku is doing in partnership with Waiohua iwi. This project is very exciting and I look forward to its progression.
    • An update from Natural Environment Strategy on the work following the recommendations from the Environment and Climate Change Committee meeting of the November 12th 2020.

On the 23rd April Whau Local Board Chair Thomas and I attended and spoke at the “Young Leaders Sustainability Wananga” at Ambury Park, part-funded by the Manukau Harbour Forum. The young leaders were selected from schools within the 9 Local Board areas of the Forum, and from the small snippet I saw, they had learnt a considerable amount. A highlight was seeing the young leaders who had taken part in previous years return and share the benefits of being in the programme and all of the mahi they take part in to protect and enhance the harbour.

On April 30th, Mangere-Otahuhu Chair Sosene, Coordinator Fraser Stobie and I attended a site visit at the Old Mangere Bridge replacement. We saw the plans for the ‘heritage garden’ at the Northern end and then went out onto the bridge to see the tremendous amount of work going into it. This will be an impressive asset when completed and will work to bring people to the harbour.

As part of the Long Term Plan (LTP) process, I raised concerns with councillors around the lack of funding earmarked for the Manukau Harbour out of the Water Quality Targeted Rate. The “Southern catchments programme” is focused on the Tamaki Estuary and Manukau Harbour, intended to leverage other major infrastructure projects which will need to invest in improving water quality. There is also investment into the safer networks programme which looks at investigating the ‘high problem’ areas and finding the illegal connections which often exist in areas of high pollution. There was widespread agreement that there is a need to tell the story of what is being done in the Manukau across the Council’s spending. I note that in the final LTP consultation report, four local boards specifically expressed support for using the Water Quality Targeted Rate to improve water quality in the Manukau Harbour.

On May 14th the Forum and a range of community and council representatives boarded the Ratahi for a field trip around the Manukau Harbour. Jim Jackson was generous enough to allow the trip to leave from his place in Clark’s Beach, and after a round of introductions and a karakia from George Flavell of Ngati Te Ata, we headed out. We first went down the Waiuku River to see the Glenbrook Steel Mill and heard from them about the operations and the upcoming resource consent. Following this, we went up the Waiuku Channel, past Clarks Beach township, and alongside the Awhitu Peninsula, looking at the cliff erosion that creates significant sediment loadings into the harbour. We then went across to Cornwallis Peninsula and headed back directly across the harbour.

On the trip we heard about the CREST project, a community conservation project that aims to protect coastal wildlife along the coastline from Clarks Beach to Karaka; Te Korowai o Papatūānuku, a 1 Billion Trees project on Āwhitu; Healthy Waters Water Quality work programmes in the Franklin area; issues with sedimentation at public wharves and boat ramps; fish, seaweed and shellfish stock in the harbour; long term economic redevelopment of the harbour including the potential for a frequent ferry from Onehunga to Clarks Beach; establishment of cycle and walking tracks along the harbour’s foreshore; development of a marine facility at Kahawai Point and a Manuka planting plan for Awhitu Peninsula.

During the trip, Jim Jackson and Ian Ruthe raised concerns about non-functioning navigational markers on the harbour and I subsequently raised this with Auckland Transport. Interestingly the lights in the Wairopa channel are ‘owned’ by Panuku since purchasing the port but are maintained by AT. Liquigas own the lights in the Papakura channel and it was raised that these also have issues that are being looked into. 

This has been a long-sought for trip and was vital for the Forum members and high-level Council staff to get a feeling for being on the harbour and seeing a side of it many of us don’t usually get to see. We all have our connections to different parts of the harbour and being able to experience it through a new lens was a great opportunity.

The southern Local Boards were invited to a hui with Ngāti Tamaoho, looking at their successes and goals for the future. We were lucky enough to have Ted Ngataki share his vision for restoring the Pahurehure Inlet and Manukau Harbour beyond it. We had some great discussion around the role mana whenua have in caring for the harbour and the need for Council to involve them in decision making. Our Auckland published a story reporting on the day which included a quote from me as chair of the Forum.

I met with Panuku’s Onehunga Wharf team to have a high-level conversation around plans for the wharf in the near future. It was interesting to learn about all the different interests involved in the wharf, and how projects that may happen in the future affect the plans for the wharf – with the East-West Link playing a large role in discussions. Although there were no formal plans to show, the priority for Panuku is opening up public access to the wharf in the near future, as well as working on developing the coastal walkway with mana whenua. We all agreed that having access to the water from the wharf would be a great asset for the harbour in future.

The ‘State of the harbour’ report for the Manukau Harbour is due to be released on July 1st and will provide a clear picture of the environmental state of the harbour, allowing us to advocate for more investment in fixing the issues identified. I haven’t had the opportunity to read it prior to filing this report, but I look forward to its release and the broader discussions we have about the harbour resulting from its release.

I have also been involved in my usual volunteer activities with Friends of Wairaki Stream, working to improve the health of this stream which discharges into the Manukau at Lynfield Cove.

Manukau Harbour Forum Chair’s report – February and March 2021

This period has largely focused on submissions, particularly as a number of events were cancelled due to Auckland going into lockdown again. I also managed to fracture an elbow in early March so had to miss out on SeaWeek activities this year, but I have appreciated seeing pictures of the mahi undertaken, particularly around removing rubbish from the foreshore.

Our Last workshop was February 12th 2021. Topics on the agenda included:

  • The coordinators work on the stocktake of Local Board initiatives which will be available to read on the next business meeting agenda. A high level analysis shows over $2 million spent from Local Board work programme initiatives that benefit the harbour. Forward work needs to look at creating programmes that work across Local Board boundaries, and focusing on marine ecosystems such as benthic communities.
  • An update from Watercare on projects affecting the Manukau – particularly around the treatment plant. There was a lot of new information for Forum members, one highlight for me was hearing about a baseline study for the Southwest treatment plant taking into account matauranga Māori. We also received an update on the Hydrodynamic model and the holdup with the model overpredicting algal blooms. More to come on this in future.
  • An update on the Freshwater management tool run by Wai Ora. This is a huge piece of work that will be invaluable in discussions of intensification in Tāmaki Makaurau, and was really impressive to hear about. There is the ability to ‘model’ what the effects of projects will be on the ‘current state’ such as adding impermeable surfaces as part of a housing development.
  • An update from Healthy Waterson how the  Water Quality Targeted Rate extension would benefit the harbour. Most of the focus was on the Southern Catchments Alignment, which will be used to clean up waterways entering the Harbour. There was a desire to get more information on this from the forum.  There was also discussion of how the Safe Networks team is working to track where pollution comes from in residential areas.

Sadly this was the day that we learnt of the pollution spill into the harbour from an industrial site in Penrose. Investigations are continuing into how this happened, what procedures were not followed and what needs to be in place to stop this happening.

The Forum have also written submissions on the Auckland Council Long Term Plan and the Climate Change Commission Report. These will be available on the next business meeting agenda. Both express a clear desire for both documents to do far more in the space of water quality and wider environmental protection. Thanks to Fraser Stobie for his hard work in collating these, well worth a read as they set out the mahi for the Forum quite well.

The Youth Sustainability Wananga invitation has been sent out and students are being contacted soon with this beginning in April. This wasn’t able to run last year under Covid so we are very excited about this mahi.

Local Boards are all working on their work programs, and the stocktake from last year will be useful in this development. The forum is awaiting confirmation of funding for next year before finalizing any work program but beginning discussions around what we would like to include.

Manukau Harbour Forum Chair’s Report November 2020- January 2021

Following our election in early November, the first important task Deputy Chair Cole and I faced was to present in support of the report given to the Environment and Climate Change Committee regarding the future of the Manukau Harbour Forum. It was heartening to hear of the support from Councillors for increased investment in the Manukau Harbour, as well as a commitment to improving the governing arrangements around the Harbour and working with mana whenua. A copy of my speaking notes is available at: https://infocouncil.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/Open/2020/11/MHFJC_20201127_AGN_10359_AT.htm#PDF3_Attachment_77911_4

On November the 17th I attended the Western Isthmus Water Quality group meeting hosted by Watercare. Although this largely focuses on the Works being undertaken around the Waitemata, there was discussion around the Meola and Whau catchments, as well as some discussion about stormwater separation along the Waikōwhai/Blockhouse Bay coastline.
On November the 23rd the Forum held a workshop and meeting which discussed Water Quality, the I&ES stocktake, an analysis of the report, meeting our new coordinator Fraser Stobie and finalising the work programme for the financial year. Later that evening I joined in with a volunteer group mulching some new plantings above Wattle Bay which will protect the critically threatened dwarf mistletoe which can be found there.

On December 4th I attended the Mangere Community Liaison group hosted by Watercare at their Māngere treatment plant. These meetings cover a wide range of topics and are well attended by community groups involved in the area. Items covered included reports on the plant, a discussion on the use of Oysters and other sealife as sampling organisms, the effects of the Central Interceptor on the plant, the success of a midges control programme introduced recently, COVID in sewage and the Hydrodynamic model. I also presented as a representative of the Forum.
On December the 7th Deputy Chair Cole and I met with the Coordinator and other staff and discussed future ideas for the forum and the role we can play. Fraser brings a lot of strengths and has experience with the Tamaki Estuary Forum so I feel we are in very capable hands.

On December 14th I attended, along with other Local Board members the unveiling of Hiwa-i-te-Rangi, the boring machine for the Central Interceptor. This project is huge and will have a range of flow on effects on the Harbour and the surrounding area.

Over the Christmas and New Year period I have enjoyed swimming in the Manukau at Taumanu Reserve. This beach is a testament to what can happen with political will and community activism. Thanks to the safeswim programme, the community can enjoy swimming there knowing the water is safe.

I was very happy to sign a letter of recommendation for an application to the Freshwater Improvement Fund which focuses on removing sediment and erosion around waterways in the Franklin region. To quote from the letter “Sediment and other pollutants coming down our awa into our moana are a major concern and are having a significant effect on our marine ecosystem. The Manukau Harbour is a taonga for the communities living around it, however the mauri of the Manukau has suffered because of ongoing pollution impacting upon water quality – this requires urgent action. Stopping those pollutants at source is the most effective and durable solution. The MHF is supportive of this ki uta ki tai approach to restoring the mauri of the Manukau Harbour.”

I thank the communities of the Manukau Harbour for allowing us to play a role in the preservation and improvement of the Harbour and look forward to continuing our work this year.

Jon Turner (Puketāpapa Local Board)
Chair of the Manukau Harbour Forum