Three years of living dangerously

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Tena koutou katoa

The end of a political term is always an opportunity to reflect on what has happened during the term, wonder about what we could have achieved but did not, and celebrate the decisions that we are proud of.

And it is an opportunity to reflect on the nature of the job and our powers and position in the larger Auckland Council family, and to think about what the optimal structure would be.

In my speech to our inaugural meeting I listed what I thought would be the big issues. They were climate change, the housing crisis, Glen Eden renewal, Kauri dieback, the state of our marine environment, weeds and pests and oversight of the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area.

And they were the big issues that we dealt with. Although there were a couple of surprise additions.

Time will properly measure the progress that we made. But I believe that we, all of us, have done out bit to make our part of paradise better one decision at a time.

Following are some of the matters that I think were the most important or most noteworthy from this term.

Denise Yates

The most poignant event this term was the death of Kuia Denise Yates who died part way through the term.

Denise had a long career in local government. She knew everyone and loved the human contact involved with the job. She was an unapologetic progressive, a staunch defender of workers’ rights, a lesbian woman who came out when this was a brave thing to do, a steadfast advocate for the environment, a tireless worker wanting to improve the West. She was still working just before Christmas 2017 but had become ill and died shortly after. Thanks to the generosity of Hoani Waititi Marae she spent her last few days on the marae.

The west is a better place because of Denise.

Ken Turner

Ken Turner was elected in the by election after Denise’s death. He has settled into the job quickly. He is very energetic and dedicated and has done some really good work on areas such as the Glen Eden Playhouse and the Waima Water Treatment plant. We disagree about some matters but a diversity of views is healthy for a democracy.

Water quality

Thanks in particular to Saffron Toms the Local Board commissioned a report into water quality in the Manukau Harbour and the West Coast. The report, titled Big Blue Waitakere, was publicly released during this term.

To be frank our local water quality is appalling. This local board area has half of the region’s trouble spots. Wood Bay and Laingholm Beach in particular are shut too often. And the Piha and Te Henga lagoons have unsafe contamination levels occurring far too frequently.

Swimmability is only one aspect of what is a complex problem. Fish stock and in particular protection of Maui’s dolphin along with contamination by plastics are other major issues that need to be addressed although improving water quality will help with these other issues.

The intent is that the report should start a discussion with local communities about the state of our beaches and lagoons and what should we do to improve them. We want to prompt a wide-ranging local conversation about our marine and coastal environment, how we interact with it and how we work together to protect and restore it.

The report itself is complex and identifies a number of threats and areas for concern. From the Executive Summary:

“Some of the greatest threats to the diversity and resilience of marine and coastal habitats are global issues such as greenhouse gas emissions and associated climate change, ocean acidification and sea level rise. Several management actions identified relate to how the local board can advocate for local scale contributions to carbon emissions that contribute to these global issues.

The key pressures affecting the marine and coastal habitats within the WRLB area include; urban development and discharge of contaminants; fishing pressure and methods; habitat destruction; wastewater pollution; rubbish, plastics and marine debris; invasive species; and potential risks associated with petroleum and sand exploration and mining.

While improvements have been made to local and regional management approaches, 90% of our native seabirds and more than a quarter of our native marine mammals are threatened with or are at risk of extinction. The rapid expansion of urbanised Auckland has resulted in coastal marine habitats and ecosystems becoming degraded. Chemical contaminants, high levels of nutrients and discharged sediments from waterways will continue to result in negative impacts. Even with the implementation of best practice management, it is unknown how irreversible these ecosystem-level changes may be.

The report sets out eight management objectives designed to focus the debate in what can and should happen in discrete areas. These include a focus on water quality, habitat diversity and natural character, natural coastal processes, sustainable fisheries, threatened species which includes the critically endangered Māui’s dolphin, the offshore environment, recreational value and safety and the accumulation of knowledge and research by local communities.

The report has been well received and I hope that along with the targeted water quality rate will drive an improvement in local water quality over the next decade.

Watercare Treatment Plant

Perhaps the most significant issue that we faced was the announcement by Watercare that it wanted to construct a treatment plant in the area and the list of potential sites had been reduced to either a new site in Oratia or near the existing site in Waima.

The Oratia site was very problematic. A number of houses and properties would have to be bought or would be affected. The work required would have been substantial. Placing a large scale industrial plant in a quiet rural area would have changed the area irreversibly.

Consenting the site would have been difficult. The protection offered by the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act could have been decisive.

The announcement caused an immediate response from the local Oratia community. With impressive passion and organisational skills they countered the plan with a community based response to the proposal. They called a number of pubic meetings that must have been attended by most people living in the valley. Their campaign was visually adept and clearly caused Watercare to rethink things.

It then settled on the Waima site as its preferred site.

An existing designation has made the obtaining of resource consent is easier than it would have been in Oratia and I suspect that this was the determining factor.

But the Waima site is also problematic. Who wants to cut down nearly 4 hectares of regenerating indigenous forest, some of it pristine, to site an industrial plant in the Waitakere Ranges?

The local board has taken an active role in the community consultation meetings. We suggested to Watercare that opponents of the plant should be included so that there was a proper contest of ideas.

The committee I believe has had an effect. An earlier plan which would have resulted in the felling of a significant grove of Kauri to make way for one of two massive reservoirs has been altered. There is now only the one reservoir in a lower quality ecological area. And construction of the second reservoir on the site of the existing plant will mean that disruption caused by truck movements will lessen as construction time will be increased.

But the project is problematic.

A few months ago I wrote to Watercare inviting them to consider siting the site on the “sludge site”. The proposal is one that came from Ken Turner and the rest of the board were happy to support it.

The benefit would have been that a significant dump site covered in the residue of the treatment process would be remediated. And the vegetation in the area was low quality. Watercare declined to follow the proposal on the basis that any potential spill would have contaminated the water supply. Given the proposed plant’s proximity to homes this is a worrying concession.

The board had provided formal feedback. This is as follows:

  1. We oppose the application in its current form.
  2. We note the proposed development is in the Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area and is adjacent to regional parkland and our view is that it is inconsistent with the objectives of the Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008 as well as the Muddy Creek Local Area Plan.
  3. We invite Watercare to renew consultation with the Waima community to locate a site and a plant design that will satisfy local expectations.
  4. We invite Watercare to investigate repositioning of the plant to the sludge site close to the Nihotupu lake as identified in the Local Board’s letter to Watercare dated October 9, 2018 a copy of which is attached.
  5. Alternatively we invite Watercare to consider repositioning the site in an urban industrial area such as Spam Farm in Glendene which is more suitable for the location of a large industrial complex of this sort.
  6. We are concerned
    (a) the plant design requires the destruction of 3.5 hectares of regenerating sub tropical rainforest that is home to many indigenous species including a previously unidentified wasp.
    (b) the project will require up to 118 heavy vehicle movements a day on Titirangi’s narrow and fragile roads.
  7. We support the restoration and repurposing of the Nihotupu Filter Station which is a scheduled heritage building at the entrance to Exhibition Drive
  8. We support a significant restoration fund being established should the new plant be constructed in the Waima area.

The matter is heading for a hearing and the new board will no doubt want to include to advocate on behalf of local communities for the best result.

Kauri dieback

This issue burst into prominence early in the term after the draft 5 year report was prepared. It was clear that the rate of spread of the disease was alarming and we were and are facing a crisis.

It was also clear that the current response was inadequate. Cleaning stations were either not being utilised properly or ignored completely. Track conditions were not stopping the spread of the disease.

Urgent action was requested but unfortunately things dragged.

Te Kawerau a Maki became, rightfully in my view, frustrated with the delay and paced a rahui on the great forest of Tiriwa.

This focussed everyone’s attention and drove action.

The local board’s position on the matter changed over time. Initially we wanted to close all high and medium risk tracks. But after Christmas 2017 we realised that all tracks needed to be closed before they could be repaired to an acceptable standard and we urged Council to do so.

This has caused objection among part of our community. People talked about the loss they felt by not being able to walk in the forest. I agree and also felt that loss. But a walk along the Maungaroa Ridge Track I took five years ago has always stayed with me. At the peak of the track there is a large cluster of dead and dying Kauri. If we want to protect Kauri so that our forests do not become graveyards then we have to take strong protective action.

Tracks through kauri areas in local parks have also recently closed. We are working through a process of prioritising their reopening.

Hoani Waititi Marae

I consider the Marae as one of the most important social institutions in the local board area and this term I have gone to the Marae as often as possible. Chair of the Marae Eynon Delamere and I have met regularly. I have also met regularly with the headmaster of the Kura Hare Rua and I am pleased that the Board has been able to assist the Kura with support for its activities.

The best advice I can give for any local board member is that relationships with the Marae and its members are best improved kanohi ki te kanohi.

Glen Eden redevelopment

Glen Eden renewal has been on the Board’s agenda for many years. As part of our annual pilgrimage to Council we have urged further investment in Glen Eden.

We also, at the suggestion of Steve Tollestrup, engaged David Haigh and David Kenkel and Kate Doswell from Unitec to research social trends in Glen Eden. Their report “Change and Development in Glen Eden” was the result.

One recommendation that I am still keen to progress is the proposal that there be a Glen Eden charter, which sets out various principles including quality urban design, and social, cultural, economic and environmental principles for decision makers.

I thought that discussion about what should be in the charter should help us understand the values that are important to Glen Eden and what we want Glen Eden to look like in the future.

The draft charter is a collection of value statements that should inform Auckland Council decision making. Its mission statement is for “[a] sustainable Glen Eden that moves confidently to the future.”

It requires Council to encourage public transport, walking and cycling and improve traffic safety. It mandates good urban design, affordable housing and energy efficiency. It talks about improved access for everyone, and planning for the future.

It talks about cultural. social and economic interests.

It is an aspirational document. By starting a conversation about what we value about Glen Eden I hope that we can come up with a charter that we can all be proud of.

I provided a copy of the full report to Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford who thought the report was outstanding and helped stage a public meeting based on the report.

The report is a very helpful insight into how Glen Eden is changing and should be compulsory reading for any new elected member for the area.

And clearly Glen Eden is changing.

The railway station has always been central to this. Ever since the electrification of the western line and the improvement of rail service times use has soured. The park and ride that the board urged Auckland Transport to build is now full from a fairly early time of the day. And apartment houses, currently being built and planned are a reflection of the importance of Glen Eden as a transport hub.

This term has seen the announcement of projects that promise to rejuvinate Glen Eden. Auckland Transport announced major safety improvements for West Coast Road and Council has purchased a strategically significant building and is getting ready to redevelop the site as an urban renewal project for the area. And the Local Board which has carefully saved up its capital funds so that a town square for the area can be advanced is making plans.

The timing of the eventual development of the site may mean that our plans will need to be delayed. It would be best and economical to do all work at once.

Glen Eden apartments

I spent a lot of time on this issue.

The apartments are the idea of Ted Manson.

He has an interesting background. He grew up in poverty and spent a great deal of his early years living in a state house. He then became exceptionally successful in business.

The Herald highlighted him in an article and he was quoted as saying this:

“I used to think ‘if I can come up from a state house, anyone can’ but as you get older, you start to realise life is not fair. Not everyone can do it …

I woke up one day and I got a social conscience. That happens at some stage of your life for some, but not for all. Up until then, I was a capitalist.

Many people are enduring tough times and are under constant pressure and constraint because of hardship or misfortune. But robust, safe, warm, healthy homes which ensure security of tenure would give them the stability to contribute positively to their community and improve their quality of life.”

We do need every dwelling we can get. The housing crisis is a scourge on Auckland. Having kids whose families have jobs with no choice but to live in cars is not the sort of New Zealand I want us to have. And the effect of the crisis is wide. Families living in crowded sub standard conditions blights the future potential of our young ones. Paying exorbitant amounts in rent means that many basics which should be guaranteed are not happening. And having a society where teachers struggle to pay the rent but can never dream of owning their own property is just wrong.

So Ted’s project is important. We do however have to make sure that these developments have a positive effect on the surrounding area. A compact urban form is a good thing as long as it is a good quality urban form.

And there is a virtue in building around our transport nodes. Developments such as these mean that we can avoid the pressure to build into the foothills of the Waitakeres. And they make our city more carbon neutral in that they lessen the need to drive private cars.

We need to make this project an exemplar. Most of the housing will be social housing and to make the project succeed we will have to make sure that there are social supports in place and that the new residents are welcome into our community.

As part of the welcome process Jade Tang-Taylor has been engaged to produce a welcome home campaign which will involve the provision of information, pamphlets, a website, maps and events to welcome these residents to Glen Eden. Details should appear in the coming months.

Te Henga Quarry

Remediation of the Te Henga quarry is a significant issue for the local board.

Quarrying activity ceased in 2015. There was a request to allow quarrying activity to continue in a neighbouring reserve area but the local board was firmly against the desecration of pristine reserve land and so quarrying activity eventually ended.

Since then remediation of the land has started. The intent is that much of the area will be replanted and for there to be canopy cover over most of the site.

Perrys, the company with the right to quarry the area has an obligation to perform some rehabilitation work on the site.

There was also funds collected by Waitakere City over a number of years tagged for the rehabilitation of the site and I calculated that that a million dollars or so was collected.

The site is an interesting area. There is a great deal of bush. There is a rather steep rock face that would be ideal for climbing if adequate safety provisions could be put in place. And there is a rather large pool that is being used for swimming but which clearly poses some danger in its present form.

The site has a great deal of potential but needs a lot of work and attention before it can be made safe.

Which is why the money accumulated by Waitakere City is so important.

There is no current dedicated fund available to finish the site and make it accessible to and enjoyable for the public. But there is I believe at least a moral obligation for Council to come up with the money so the work can be done.

The matter has been raised with Council staff.

Huia Seawall replacement

One of the big projects the Board was involved in was the Huia Seawall.

The project involved the construction of two groynes and the replacement of the existing wall which was being undermined.

The project struck problems after the method of taking sand from the bay was shown to be less than optimal. Residents contacted the board and asked us to get involved which we did.

After some discussion and negotiation with staff a consensus was reached to continue the sea wall towards the stream at the western side of the beach and to bring in sand from elsewhere.

The project is nearly complete and the last I saw was operating as anticipated.

Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act review

This is a five yearly report and and important discipline as we work out how effective the Act is functioning. The second report was produced last year.

In the forward I said this:

“We find that despite all efforts made so far kauri dieback disease continues to spread. This is a particularly local tragedy for a taonga of the heritage area and a national one in terms of our wider forest ecology. Auckland needs to make some tough decisions on what needs to be done to halt the further loss of kauri. The potential new threat of myrtle rust is also on our horizon.

This report gives us time to recognise the progress and achievements made towards meeting the objectives of the Act. This local board always strives to represent the values of the heritage area, and is very conscious of community action taken to hold the line against, for example, animal pests and weeds, and of council’s role in empowering private landowners to do their bit. People are generally very proud to live in a heritage area, and that strength of feeling is growing.

This report underlines our collective responsibility to manage, monitor, protect and celebrate this special place. In another ten years I would like to find not only that we have added to the successes of today, but have risen to the long-term challenges that we face to ensure the vision for the heritage area is met.”

Climate emergency declaration

The local board decided that we should declare a climate emergency for our local board area and urge Auckland Council to do the same, which I am pleased they have done so.

The question will be what next?

One area that I believe we can be very proactive is implementing our Greenways network.

This meeting we should finalise our Greenways Plan.

The problem is however budget, our scarce resources are not sufficient to do more than one or two projects a year and there are many.

Auckland transport has been criticised for not doing enough about walking and cycling. One solution may be for the current capital grants made to local boards to be increased and tagged specifically for greenways project. That way board by board we could prioritise and construct those walking and cycling projects that make most sense to us.

Emergency management

After the floods in 2018 and the big storm that wrecked the west’s power supply the board took an active role in assessing current management plans and upgrading them. A lot of the work occurred in Piha which had two significant floods that year as well as regular power outages.

The work was productive and I believe will assist in the future.

Titirangi Chickens

They have been a feature of the village for many years. Originally there were only a couple of them but numbers have grown and they are now a significant problem. They pose danger to road users, they are undermining the quality of the bush and scratching around Kauri and they are really messy and unhygenic.

Matters came to a head after the appearance of large rats in the village. Chickens may not have been the only problem but they were a contributor.

And the news put Titirangi in the world news for all the wrong reasons. In one week I had interviews with CNN Hong Kong, three national radio stations and a number of media organisations.

The response to the rat plague was quick. I am pleased that Council’s contractors managed to quickly dampen down numbers and I must acknowledge and thank the South Titirangi Neighbourhood Network for also stepping up and helping.

And a contract for removal of the chickens is now being put in place. As many as possible will be rehomed.

Other Highlights

Taking part in a world record at Glen Eden Intermediate.

The ethkick event, the perfect antidote after the horror of the Christchurch massacre.

The dawn ceremony at Matariki.

Beats and eats in Glen Eden


There is a lot more that I could write about but time and space prevent me from doing so.

Can I acknowledge all staff but especially the following:

Glenn Boyd
Claire Liousse
Brett Lane
Raewyn Curran
Brenda Railey
The one and only Shaz

who are all consummate professionals, all work hard and make us appear to be efficient and resourceful and convert our random mutterings into concrete action.

Can I also acknowledge the local board members, my very capable and dedicated deputy chair Saffron, Sandra, Steve, Neil and Ken for all of your contributions this term.

Each of you are in this because you want to make Waitakere a better place.

Mostly we agree on what is needed. Occasionally we don’t.

But I have found that working with you has been a pleasure.

I wish Steve all the best for his retirement and acknowledge the passion and enthusiasm he has poured into the job over the past six years.

Nor reira tena koutou tena koutou tena koutou katoa

The Waitakere Ranges Local Board’s position on the Watercare Plant

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In the interests of public transparency I thought I should set out what the Local Board submitted on the resource consent application for the Waima water treatment plant. Here it is.

The submission is subject to final approval which will be considered at our board meeting on September 26.


The Waitākere  Ranges Local Board is responsible for identifying and communicating the interests and preferences of the people in its local board area.

Following is our input to the consent application by Watercare.  This relates to the environmental, heritage and social impacts of the proposal.

We would like to be heard at the hearing


  1. We oppose the application in its current form.
  2. We note the proposed development is in the Waitākere  Ranges Heritage Area and is adjacent to regional parkland and our view is that it is inconsistent with the objectives of the Waitākere  Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008 as well as the Muddy Creek Local Area Plan.
  3. We invite Watercare to renew consultation with the Waima community to locate a site and a plant design that will satisfy local expectations.
  4. We invite Watercare to investigate repositioning of the plant to the sludge site close to the Nihotupu lake as identified in the Local Board’s letter to Watercare dated October 9, 2018 a copy of which is attached.
  5. Alternatively we invite Watercare to consider repositioning the site in an urban industrial area such as Spam Farm in Glendene which is more suitable for the location of a large industrial complex of this sort.
  6. We are concerned
    1. the plant design requires the destruction of 3.5 hectares of regenerating sub tropical rainforest that is home to many indigenous species including a previously unidentified wasp.
    1. The project will require up to 118 heavy vehicle movements a day on Titirangi’s narrow and fragile roads.
  7. We support the restoration and repurposing of the Nihotupu Filter Station which is a scheduled heritage building at the entrance to Exhibition Drive
  8. We support a significant restoration fund being established should the new plant be constructed in the Waima area.


Waitākere  Ranges Heritage Area Act considerations

We acknowledge that Watercare holds a special designation on the site and the terms of this designation have been considered by the High Court in TPG v Watercare [CIV-2017-404-2762].  We note however that the significant ecological area overlay of the Unitary Plan poses some restrictions on what can occur specifically in relation to vegetation clearance and earthworks and stream diversion and therefore overrides the designation.

The subject site is within the Waitākere  Ranges Heritage Area (WRHA), established by the WRHA Act 2008. Section 7 of the Act recognises that:

“(1) The heritage area is of national significance and the heritage features described in subsection (2), individually or collectively, contribute to its significance.

(2)   The heritage features of the heritage area are—

(a)   its terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of prominent indigenous character that—

(i)         include large continuous areas of primary and regenerating lowland and coastal rainforest, wetland, and dune systems with intact ecological sequences:

(ii)        have intrinsic value:

(iii)       provide a diversity of habitats for indigenous flora and fauna:

(iv)       collect, store, and produce high quality water:

(v)        provide opportunities for ecological restoration:

(vi)       are of cultural, scientific, or educational interest:

(vii)      have landscape qualities of regional and national significance:

(viii)     have natural scenic beauty:

(b)   the different classes of natural landforms and landscapes within the area that contrast and connect with each other, and which collectively give the area its distinctive character: …

(e)   the quietness and darkness of the Waitākere  Ranges and the coastal parts of the area: …

(g)   the opportunities that the area provides for wilderness experiences, recreation, and relaxation in close proximity to metropolitan Auckland:

(i)         the subservience of the built environment to the area’s natural and rural landscape, which is reflected in—

(ii)        the distinctive harmony, pleasantness, and coherence of the low-density residential and urban areas that are located in regenerating (and increasingly dominant) forest settings; …

(l)    its distinctive local communities:

(m) the Waitākere  Ranges Regional Park and its importance as an accessible public place with significant natural, historical, cultural, and recreational resources:

(n) the public water catchment and supply system, the operation, maintenance, and development of which serves the people of Auckland.”

Section 8 sets out the objectives of the Legislation.  It says:

“The objectives of establishing and maintaining the heritage area are—

(a)  to protect, restore, and enhance the area and its heritage features:

(b) to ensure that impacts on the area as a whole are considered when decisions are made affecting any part of it:

(c)  to adopt the following approach when considering decisions that threaten serious or irreversible damage to a heritage feature:

(i)   carefully consider the risks and uncertainties associated with any particular course of action; and

(ii)  take into account the best information available; and

(iii) endeavour to protect the heritage feature:

(d) to recognise and avoid adverse potential, or adverse cumulative, effects of activities on the area’s environment (including its amenity) or its heritage features:

(e)  to recognise that, in protecting the heritage features, the area has little capacity to absorb further subdivision:

(f)  to ensure that any subdivision or development in the area, of itself or in respect of its cumulative effect,—

(i)   is of an appropriate character, scale, and intensity; and

(ii)  does not adversely affect the heritage features; and

(iii) does not contribute to urban sprawl:

(g)  to maintain the quality and diversity of landscapes in the area by—

(i)   protecting landscapes of local, regional, or national significance; and

(ii)  restoring and enhancing degraded landscapes; and

(iii) managing change within a landscape in an integrated way, including managing change in a rural landscape to retain a rural character:

(h) to manage aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in the area to protect and enhance indigenous habitat values, landscape values, and amenity values:

(i)   to recognise that people live and work in the area in distinct communities, and to enable those people to provide for their social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being:

(j)   to provide for future uses of rural land in order to retain a rural character in the area:

(k)  to protect those features of the area that relate to its water catchment and supply functions …

As can be seen most of these objectives are protective.  Only objective (k) is supportive of the construction of the treatment plant and it talks about protecting features rather than changing features.

Section 13 of the Act requires a decision making body when considering a resource consent for a discretionary or non complying application to give particular regard to the purpose and objectives of the Act.  If the application involves a controlled or restricted discretionary activity then consent authority must consider the purpose of this Act and the relevant objectives as if they were matters specified in the plan or proposed plan.

Clearly special care needs to be taken in the assessment of this application.

The currently bush covered part of the Watercare site is on a highly prominent location at the intersection of Scenic Drive and Woodlands Park Road.

Exhibition Drive is an entry point to Waitākere  Ranges Regional Park so we believe the protecting  the values of the park should be a major consideration, along with the impacts on the character of Waima and Titirangi. 

The proposed changes to the site will have significant impact on the heritage and ecological values with the removal of vegetation, the earthworks, the construction impacts and the eventual built form.

We acknowledge the importance of the area’s water supply function and the need for a growing Auckland.  A good outcome would be to balance this with the other heritage features, particularly subservience of the built environment to the natural landscape, protection, enhancement and restoration of ecosystems, and the area’s distinctive local communities.

Muddy Creeks Local Area Plan

The Waitākere  Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008 allows for the creation of local area plans.  The purpose of these plans is set out in section 25(2) of the Act as follows:

“The purpose of a LAP is to—

(a)        promote the purpose of this Act and the objectives; and

(b)       provide objectives (particularly long-term objectives) in relation to—

(i)         the future amenity, character, and environment of the local area to which the LAP applies; and

(ii)        the well-being of the local community within that area (including its economic and social wellbeing); and

(c)        inform decision-making processes that relate to the heritage area.”

The effects of a LAP are set out in sections 27 and 28 of the Act.  The provisions are somewhat complex but the board believes that the terms of any existing plan are a relevant consideration in assessing what heritage features to give effect to and how much weight should be given.

The Muddy Creeks Plan, a local area plan for Waima, Woodlands Park, Laingholm and Parau, was adopted in 2014. It contains the following passage:

Statement of existing character and amenity

Woodlands Park and Waima are visually contained on their northern and western sides within the steep forested slopes of the Regional Park and Watercare land that includes Exhibition Drive. Houses are nestled within the regenerating forest. Large trees, many of them kauri, are a prominent feature. Dissected valleys and gullies give each road a sense of intimacy and isolation while offering elevated glimpses of the Manukau Harbour. At the top of Woodlands Park Road, the Huia filter station is a prominent feature which reminds us of the history and current water supply function of the area.

Statement of future character and amenity

In Laingholm, Woodlands Park and Waima the delicate balance between houses and vegetation along the slopes will be maintained. Footpaths designed in sympathy with the area will line the main roads, and a network of walkways will join pockets of settlements, schools, halls and shops, Laingholm Beach and South Titirangi. Ecological corridors within the area will provide safe, healthy and connected ecosystems and terrestrial habitats.

Site selection process and requirement to look at alternatives

The replacement of the Huia Water Treatment Plant has been a contentious subject in the area. There was strong opposition to locating the plant in Oratia, and there is strong local opposition to the current proposal.

The following aspects of the proposal are, in no particular order, the matters of most concern:

  1. Environment destruction including the clearing of over 3 hectares of forest close to significant stands of Kauri.
  2. Amenity destruction, particularly for Manuka Road residents who would especially be affected by the proposal.
  3. Disruption to the local community caused by construction and truck movements.

The local board has always taken a keen interest in issues relating to tree protection.  In a world where forests in Alaska, Siberia, Brazil and Africa are burning and where the planting of sufficient trees may be the world’s best chance to prevent runaway global warming the thought of 3.5 hectares of Waitākere  forest and bush being cleared fills us with dread.

The plant is a large industrial style plant and is totally out of place in Waima, in a sensitive ecological area. 

The board had previously proposed to Watercare that it should construct the plant on another site.  A copy of our letter is attached.  Watercare has rejected this proposal.

We note the proposal would have these benefits:

  • Low quality vegetation would be cleared
  • Watercare would have to remediate a site which is currently a dumping area for treated carbon which is a by product of the treatment process
  • The affect on amenity would be limited as the site is on the far site of a ridge away from houses.

We accept however that the proposal would increase the disruption caused by truck trips to a greater area.

This sort of activity should take place in an industrial area, not in an area of environmental sensitivity.  We would urge Watercare to go back to the drawing board on this application and reconsider placing the treatment plant in a suitably designated industrial area.


The size of the plant is of concern.  The technology being used, settlement tanks, requires this size plant.  We would urge Watercare to consider alternatives such as filtration so that if a treatment plant is located in Waima then much smaller bush clearance is required.

In relation to the current proposal we are pleased to see that the final revised proposal decreased the amount of vegetation to be cleared by having two separate reservoirs.  Also the intensity of the construction was reduced by having the second reservoir constructed after the first one was finished.

With regards to design, we consider that the proposed design is sprawling and that there has been no opportunity taken to reduce footprints of actual infrastructure.  Is there not a more effective process that could require smaller more dispersed responses?  Were other sites explored for partial filtration?  With a distributed filtration system (including smaller plants at different parts of the network) raw water could be piped to different parts of the network and then filtered and cleaned.


The effects on the local community will be considerable.  Amongst other things there will be a number of daily truck movements and it has been estimated there could be up to 118 per day.

Roads in the area are steep and narrow and windy.  There are realistically only two roads that trucks could take into the area.  One is through Titirangi village using Titirangi Road and the other is on Atkinson Road.  The first will cause considerable disruption to the village.  The second will take trucks past two primary and one intermediate school in a one kilometre stretch of road.

Mitigation proposals

We support the proposed mitigation package however have concerns that the construction will put pressure on the catchment which is wider than the Waima catchment and the mitigation package should address this.

We recommend the catchment be extended to include Parau to the west, and parts of South Titirangi to the east.


We note that Sandra Coney and Bob Harvey have submitted on the future of the Nihotupu Filter Station.  We support the restoration and repurposing of the Station that is proposed.

We do question if works affecting the Nihotupu and Huia Filter Stations, which have heritage status, can be achieved by use of the Outline Plan of Works process.  We believe that consideration of the treatment of these buildings should be part of the public hearing process.


We consider that the effects are that significant that an increase in the proposed funding to support sustainable on-going ecological change is appropriate.

We also consider there should also be investment in social mitigation similar to that provided to the Waterview community following the NZTA tunnel project that occurred there.

We recommend that the Waima Biodiversity Trust include a representative of the Waitākere  Ranges Local Board along with an Auckland Council staff representative in its make up. We ask that the Trust Deed be changed accordingly.  While the trust will be operating independently there is a need for it to be aware of what council is doing and for council to be aware of what the trust is doing. Having a technical representative from Auckland Council along with an elected representative would help with this. The local board oversees council’s local environmental activities, including the support of volunteer groups doing ecological restoration.

We also consider there should be an emphasis on supporting the efforts of locally based environmental groups.

Waima Biodiversity Management Plan

We recommend that the Management Plan include support of the full range of community led actions in the Muddy Creeks Local Area Plan to deliver on the objectives for “Ecology and Ecosytems” as outlined in Appendix 1 of the plan. The biodiversity plan should support environmental education programmes to foster environmental stewardship in the area beyond the proposed 10 year life of the trust and its funding.

My submissions on the Zero Carbon bill

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I presented today on the Government’s Zero Carbon bill to the Parliamentary Select Committee. This is what I said …

I am the chair of Waitakere Ranges Local Board and I am proud to represent the most beautiful part of Auckland. I was previously a Waitakere City Councillor. For 4 years I was a director of Land Transport NZ

I have taken a keen interest in climate change for all of that time from a local government and central government perspective.

The overwhelming feeling I have from that period is that the world and New Zealand has drifted at a time when concerted action to address climate change was required.

It took focussed action by Pacific Island nations a couple of years ago to steel resolve for us and for others.

We are now in a crisis. Unless there is dramatic action taken then our fragile world is going to be damaged perhaps irreparably.

The local board has taken an active interest in the issue.

Climate change and sustainability are central considerations in our local board plan.

We recently declared by a majority a climate emergency for the local board area and urged Auckland Council to do the same.

I am pleased they did so unanimously.

I do not sense the need to address how important it is that we keep total global temperature increases to less than 1.5 degrees or how if we breach 2 degrees how we are in unchartered territories.

All I can say is that the Arctic is on fire and Greenland’s ice sheets are melting. This is what has been predicted will be some of the effects of climate change. And it is happening now.

By majority the board was generally fully support the aims and intention of the bill.

In relation to the proposal for a Climate Change Commission I supported Auckland Council’s requirement that commission members have extensive understanding of climate mitigation and adaption.

In relation to the proposed targets we support the non methane target. I am pleased the figure is so stark. It will focus all of our minds on what is required.

In relation to the methane I target support Auckland Council’s enhanced interim target. Methane because it is relatively short lived means that short term reductions in methane levels can give us headroom in addressing CO2 levels should that extra headroom be required.

We also support local carbon offsets. Extensive reforestation could make a significant difference. The Government’s billion tree project and the Mayor’s million tree project are examples of what can be achieved when politicians put their mind to it.

Our preference is for indigenous trees to be planted.

There are some suggestions that the targets should be legally enforceable. My 35 years as a lawyer suggests that this would pose all sorts of issues in terms of enforcement.

We support the creation of emission budgets. Society is exquisitely able to measure the fiscal performance of the country. We should be able to similarly measure the state of our environment and remind ourselves regularly what state it is in.

In relation to adaption we support amendment of the Resource Management Act and Building Act to include consideration of climate change. We agree that It is essential that climate change mitigation and adaptation are reflected and embedded throughout all acts consistently and not overlooked.

With enough trees …

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There was this fascinating recent article in the Guardian which laid out in very plain terms what we know already.  The best way to start addressing climate change and to start to absorb carbon dioxide while we work out how we are going to wean ourselves off petroleum and air travel is to plant trees, lots and lots and lots of trees.

From the article:

Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, according to scientists, who have made the first calculation of how many more trees could be planted without encroaching on crop land or urban areas.

As trees grow, they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating. New research estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities, a figure the scientists describe as “mind-blowing”.

The analysis found there are 1.7bn hectares of treeless land on which 1.2tn native tree saplings would naturally grow. That area is about 11% of all land and equivalent to the size of the US and China combined. Tropical areas could have 100% tree cover, while others would be more sparsely covered, meaning that on average about half the area would be under tree canopy.

The scientists specifically excluded all fields used to grow crops and urban areas from their analysis. But they did include grazing land, on which the researchers say a few trees can also benefit sheep and cattle.

“This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said Prof Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zürich, who led the research. “What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.”

A trillion trees, it sounds like a lot.

We have had Phil Goff’s million trees project for Auckland Council and Shane Jones’ billion tree project for the Government.

Both are positive.  Jones’s proposal is not so great because it is mostly planting Pine for harvesting in the not too distant future.  To really make a dent in our carbon budget deficit we need to have long term sustainable forests grow, and Kauri are especially good at carbon sequestration.

But a billion trees is about 200 per kiwi.  A trillion trees is about 125 per person on the planet.

Of course the proposal needs to address the supply side of the equation as well as the demand side.  We need to urgently reduce the amount of CO2 we are pumping into the atmosphere as well as increasing the amount of CO2 we are sequestering.  And sorry meat lovers but we need to cut back on red meat consumption.

And we need to stop cutting down existing trees, particularly the large ones that have sequestered lots of carbon.  And there needs to be strong disincentives to dissuade Indonesia and Brazil from clearfelling their forests.

And this particular solution will take years to start having an effect.

But the message is clear.  Time to start planting.

An interview with Bob Harvey

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I had the privilege of interviewing Bob Harvey recently on Red Alert Radio on Planet FM.

Bob has had a huge effect on New Zealand politics. Using his prodigious skills in advertising he was behind some of the most successful political campaign advertisements ever conducted. He then decided to enter into local politics and became Mayor of Waitakere City, a position he held for eighteen years. And he was also a dedicated member of the Labour Party and became Party President at the time that the fifth Labour Government won power.

Due to programming requirements we only had 30 minutes which was a shame as we could have talked for hours.

I started off by asking him about the Labour campaign in 1972 which featured the “Its time” campaign slogan in both New Zealand and Australia. The campaigns were hugely successful with progressive governments being elected on both sides of the Tasman at least in part because of the desire for change that the campaigns engendered.

Bob pointed out how the slogan was perfectly scaleable and stood for many things as it was time for better education, better wages, a clean environment …

We then talked about the agony of the death of Norm Kirk and how it shocked the country. Bob talked about a particularly odious person who managed to ring through to Kirk’s hospital room to repeatedly ask him if he was dead yet in the days leading up to his eventual demise.

After Kirk’s death things went south for Labour. Rob Muldoon emerged and National’s infamous Dancing Cossack advertisements were played. Labour’s campaign in 1972 was uplifting and tucked at the heart strings. By contrast National’s was based on fear. It is funny how so often these different stances reflect the campaigns of the left and of the right.

If you have not seen it this is the ad in question.

There was also this particularly odious racist example that would not survive nowadays.

We then talked about the 1980s. Bob had vivid memories of David Lange and talked in some detail about his stomach stapling operation, and how a slimmer more dynamic David appeared after that and how he then captured the heart of the country.

As befits a talented adman Bob was impressed by David’s inspirational speech to the Oxford Union about nuclear weapons. He also confirmed details that David’s initial position was complex and that he worked to see if a compromise allowing the visit of a nuclear powered but not armed ship could occur.

We then talked about Bob’s decision to seek the mayoralty of Waitakere City. His motivation was a very simple one, he wanted to protect the Waitakere Ranges. He had spent much of his life either living or surfing or visiting the area and wanted it to be protected.

Bob did an extraordinary job in blending together two ideas, that Westies should be proud to be Westies and that they should be proud of our extraordinary environment. He cultured the concept of an eco city and made it central to the way that the city worked.

The film industry, which was fostered by Bob, was a major example of this, showing that high paid high tech jobs could be created at the same time as the environment was being nurtured. The film industry has poured huge amounts of money into the west and has been an outstanding success.

Bob said that there were two new projects coming out west which he could not mention. I wonder if this was one of them?

We talked about the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act and how contentious it was at the time. People have moved on and the Act now represents the protective desires and aspirations that people have for the area.

We talked about the super city and how the concept of eco city was being lost. Bob was particularly scathing about incursions into the Waitemata Harbour and described the luxury cruise ship industry as being “bully boys”.

Bob thought that housing and transport were two pressing problems that the city was facing and that to run a city this size needs enormous imagination a clear commitment to spend. He was also concerned that the current council was something of a a bear pit and councillors should realise they are there to do a job and just get on and do it.

Tamihere verses Goff? Bob had some respect for Tamihere and the work he has done for Waipareira. But he thought the main job of the mayor was to unite the council and expressed his support for Goff.

And what did he think was the biggest issue facing the next super city council? Climate change. And we have gone backwards from having eco city at the front of our thinking to having the environment as only one of many things to consider.

It was a pleasure to talk to Bob and a strong reminder to me of what a significant influence he has had nationally and locally over many decades.

If you want to listen to the interview the feed can be accessed from here.