“The Tararata Stream- where’s that?”, asked one of my born-and-bred-in-Mangere colleagues, when I told her about my next 275 Times assignment. Streams are the hidden gems of our city neighbourhoods, channelling water from our streets out to the harbour and creating habitat for a multitude of plants, birds, fish, insects and people. They play a vital role in our ecosystem, but do we treat them with the respect and care they deserve and need? Do we even know they’re there? I decided to spend an afternoon with the Tararata Stream Team to find out more.
Hidden behind houses between Bader Dr and Hall Ave in Mangere, the stream can be reached at Moyle Park, or at entrances off Elmdon St and at the end of Hinau Rd. A wide grass path runs along the banks of the stream on either side, with evidence of past community tree planting sessions along the way. I catch up with the Stream Team as they emerge through a gate in the fence of a neighbouring house. Armed with sampling nets, buckets and microscopes, the small team of dedicated locals are here to check the water quality and see what creatures they can spot in the stream today.
Stream neighbours (Sarah, Helen, Beau, Cody and Catherine) and their dog are having fun, spotting inanga and eels in the stream and cooling off from the blazing sun. Several other neighbourhood children are hanging over their back fences and poking around near the water- the stream’s magnetic pull drawing them in. Looking downstream towards Mangere Mountain, it feels as though we’re out in the countryside.
Team co-ordinator Julia Tuineau says there’s always been a stream in this area, although it’s meandering form was dug into a straight channel and put underground through a pipe beneath Moyle Park when the area was developed for housing 60 years ago. It drains the rain from the area bounded by Kirkbride Rd, Massey Rd and Robertson Rd, through a complex system of underground pipes, replacing the many small streams that used to flow through Mangere.
“The stream was a great resource for Maori in the past, a source of freshwater and abundant fish”, says Julia. “It links us to the sea, with tidal water coming up as far as Hinau Rd. Fish and birds move between stream and harbour. Shortfin eels, to the delight of children, still come from the ocean - Moana Nui a Kiwa - in spring, and some live here for 50 years or so before leaving New Zealand forever to lay their eggs deep in the ocean. Little inanga come downstream to the tidal area in February and March to lay their eggs in the grass. Their babies will spend the winter in the Manukau Harbour, and come up our stream in spring as whitebait”, explains Julia.
There’s still life in the stream then, but it certainly needs some love. Local resident Tere Arere got involved last year, after receiving a letter inviting her to a planting session down at the stream. She’s concerned about the amount of rubbish being dumped in and around the stream and the potential for flooding that this creates. Long-time stream kaitiaki Maurice Sinclair is also concerned. He’s down at the stream most days, pulling supermarket trolleys of rubbish out of the stream and clearing away the waterweed that’s building up on the silty stream bed.
Over the years, the team has discovered all sorts of strange things dumped in the stream- from TVs, beds and mattresses to pigs guts and grass clippings. One day a car even turned up, nose-down in the channel. “People hope that the stream will bear these things away out of sight”, says Julia.
Human actions can have a detrimental impact on stream life, but the Stream Team remains positive. They see the potential for the stream to be a place for the community to value and nurture. Their current projects include the installation of a fish refuge in the stream- a structure that will allow the fish to shelter from the strong flow of the current. They aim to bring life back into the stream and to encourage people to engage with it. “We want people to notice that the stream’s looking a bit sad and to ask “why?” and “what can we do?”, says Julia. She hopes that more of the stream neighbours will join in and enjoy the stream.
Ways to get involved:
Join the Tararata Stream Team facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1947178058889289/
Bring the kids to join in with water testing work and planting days
Watch and warn people who try to dump litter
Come along to the Matariki celebrations being planned at the stream
Enjoy the stream!