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One Stream Connects Many Neighbours

A blog about the passion to restore a native environment and the successes and challenges so far.

This is a great story of hard work, commitment, determination and the flow-on effects to others as positive results begin to take hold.

How the stream restoration project got started.

It didn’t happen overnight. It's been three years since Alicia and Chris began restoring the stream that backs onto their property in Beach Haven. For decades, the neglected stream was being overtaken by pest plants, eroded by increased volumes of stormwater from the neighbourhood, and the next generation of native seedlings were unable to germinate to replace the forest. The forest is well worth protecting as it is a rare remnant of Pohutukawa, puriri, broadleaved forest - otherwise known as Coastal Broadleaved Forest. This is increasingly rare to find in urban environments and can host a diverse range of flora and fauna.

Alicia and Chris moved into the area in 2017 and began by slowly clearing away large overgrown pest plants including ginger and blue spur flowers along the streambank. Their neighbour Phil, a landscaper, joined the effort, constructing steps and pathways and helping to stabilise the stream banks. Together, the three of them replaced the weeds with native plants and trees, and Alicia and Chris set up predator control to welcome native wildlife into the area.

The project raised local awareness about the state of the stream, the length of which runs through the back of many people’s properties in Beach Haven. Chris and Alicia’s next-door neighbours Pam and Roy noticed the improvements next to them, as well as increased bird life around them, and decided to join the project. In December last year, Roy cleared all the Tradescantia that had taken over their section of the stream. He formed a new stream-side path, which was then connected up with Chris and Alicia’s path – a practical and symbolic action that signalled the community spirit that was unfolding. Together, the neighbours began regenerating this next section of stream and forest.

Amazing restoration work on the stream.

With a grant for contractor assistance for ginger control from Pest Free Kaipatiki via Auckland Council, these committed neighbours removed a large area of ginger, blue spur flower, Tradescantia fluminensis and other pest plants that spanned at least 700m2 of the riparian margin. Over the last two years, they have planted many diverse native species to help stabilise the steambanks, and provide food and habitat for wildlife. With the restoration of the two properties underway, the project gathered momentum as neighbours saw the changes happening next door to them. This triggered a knock-on effect, resulting in the formation of the Drome View Place / Aeroview Drive Stream Community group. The group got together in August 2021 for their first planting day, putting in 730 native grasses, shrubs and trees across multiple properties along the stream.

Carex lessoniana among others will help hold the banks together with its creeping, spreading rhizome/roots and seed into cracks, while mahoe, kawakawa, karamu and pseudopanax will help form an understory that has been missing for so long. Finally, karaka, kahikatea, puriri and pohutukawa were planted back in the forest as they are key species suited for the rare remnant of forest.

Not only will native trees and grasses help protect the bank in flooding events and prevent it from crumbling, they will also help create a cleaner water habitat for our native fish and eels. In addition, it will also reduce runoff into the stream, provide shade and reduce temperatures, thus providing homes for fish food like insects.

The truly inspiring part of this project aside from the rapid growth and success seen in the ecology so far, is that the initiative has now grown to encompass 10 households that back onto the stream. Their collective efforts to restore and protect the stream could have the chance to run the entire length of the gully, which would be a first of its kind that Pest Free Kaipātiki are aware of in our local area. Together, this proactive group is working towards long-term restoration to ensure this treasured piece of Beach Haven’s landscape will be enjoyed by future generations too.

The impacts of urbanisation and development on the stream

Pam and Roy have lived on their property for 45 years, and four generations have experienced and enjoyed the natural bush and stream setting. They have enjoyed sitting under the ponga, listening to the sounds of the birds and talking about the plants and insects they grew up with. Over the years, they have seen what was a shallow stream become deeper and faster moving, with the associated loss of many of the native plants as the banks collapsed under pressure. The stream bed used to be an easy step down for their then pre-school children and water was only ankle deep. Fish and eels were to be found in the pools, and even some long (15cm) dark green native worms as thick as your finger! It was a safe, healthy and abundant place. At most, when the stream catchment had heavy rain, the water level would rise around 10cm and become knee-deep to their toddlers.

Today it's a very different story. The amount of runoff from impervious services and infill housing up the catchment is leading to higher volumes and velocities of stormwater through the stream. The stream bed has dropped now to about 2m below the original level of the bank and the width has tripled. Much native biodiversity – plants, trees and wildlife - have been lost as a result. The group were delighted when eels and banded kōkopu returned to the restored stream but devastated when subsequent development upstream caused sediment discharge that killed them all off. The neighbours are collectively battling these pressures to preserve the ecosystem and their land.

They are talking with Auckland Council and the Local Board to try and find solutions for this stream which we think is a wonderful initiative and implore those with the ability to help communities, and our Significant Ecological Areas stand a chance as Urban Auckland grows and our Urban Ngahere changes with it. We are inspired by the level of passion for the care of this stream by neighbours, and will continue to support their native transition from a dying forest, to one that flourishes and has the best chance of holding onto its stream banks for the future.

The latest restoration work on the stream

Biggest challenges and learnings

The greatest issue the group has come up against are hydrological issues. On rainy days, there’s too much stormwater flow coming through too fast from culverts located upstream, washing away the stream banks, plants and trees. Alicia and Chris followed professional advice on putting down rocks and structures and planting riparian plants to help with the issue. Often it’s a bad idea to put anything into a streambed as it can modify flow, potentially causing unwanted damage further down, however in the Drome View case - the solution has been designed very well and the positive results are very clear.

The planting of riparian plants and stabilisation in key areas will help, however, without support from the wider community, Auckland Council, planners and developers, the source of the damage to this stream (high volumes of stormwater entering the stream all at once) will only continue, and increase.

It has been challenging at times, but these determined neighbours have come together to bring back a stream, and despite facing setbacks, they will continue their collective work to protect and restore the stream and bush.

The group have been surprised and inspired by nature's response to the restoration. It’s hard to believe that only two years ago, once all the weeds were removed, Alicia and Chris had an empty, muddy site, but now the regenerating bush and mini-wetland are flourishing. A great outcome is that life such as moss, lichen, and fungi are turning up on the streambanks , showing that the important grasses and ferns are functioning by stabilising surface soil and creating a micro-climate. And the group also gets the extra treat of seeing glow-worms at night!

A support network

Alicia and Chris contacted PFK to get some help, and our Restoration Adviser, Fiona Smal, visited the site back when the invasive weeds reigned, and was able to help with some initial pest plant advice, access to resources and - thanks to a grant by our Local Board and Council - funding for some professional weed control by Te Ngahere Ltd.

We recently supported the group with a planting day, where 10 households joined in and planted 730 natives! Great to see neighbours helping one another. Next winter together we plan to restore the next section along.

Pest Free Kaipātiki advocate for and encourage Auckland Council and developers to support this conservation initiative, and others like it across our Local Board, as while neighbours can do a great deal themselves as clearly shown, they face difficulties as urban Auckland intensifies the area of impervious surfaces, and puts pressure on all streams. Forward thinking and smart solutions are required if Kaipātiki is to continue to grow to accommodate rising housing needs, as well as support a thriving ecosystem that in turn promote human health and wellbeing.

If you have a degraded stream on your property which you’d love to see thriving again, but just don’t know where to start, please do contact with Pest Free Kaipātiki.

How can we support YOU?

There are many variables to consider when restoring a stream, and it’s important to do things in the right way, so please get in touch with us before you start, we are here to help! We will give you the advice and resources you need to help you carry out your stream restoration effectively.

So whether you’re concerned about the state of your local stream and wildlife, the impacts of invasive weeds, erosion, or upstream construction projects in your neighbourhood, or you’re simply looking for a way to get involved – we invite you to get in touch with us. In addition to stream care, we could also help you with predator and pest plant control, you can view the available resources on our website. Our friends at Kaipātiki Project can help with stream monitoring too if you are concerned about pollution or the health of water.

Our urban streams are so important – and this Beach Haven project shows what can be achieved in your own backyard – bringing nature back and bringing people together.

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