Change is beginning

The Manukau Harbour has been abused and neglected, its water polluted and its estuaries clogged with mangroves and silt. There are virtually no shore-based facilities such as boat ramps, wharves and jetties, few navigational aids, no passenger transport and little interest from central government.

The bulk of Auckland’s treated sewage is discharged into the Harbour and with forecasts for Auckland’s future growth, existing and new sewage treatment systems will need to cope with much greater volumes of waste. Where will it be discharged? Is it still acceptable to continue to pour treated human waste into the harbour? The contents of stormwater are becoming of more concern.

The Ports of Auckland facilities at Onehunga are in a deplorable state of disrepair. It is an extremely important facility for the national fishing fleet. Yet the Port facilities need upgrading, dredging is required to reopen wharves, and new facilities built to provide for the future passenger and tourist services,and all-tide boat access for the public. If there is a disaster on the Harbour right now there are no emergency services  based at Onehunga Wharf to respond, no shore access even for the Coast Guard to land an injured person at Onehunga and limited services around the harbour.

The key issue is the long term management of the Harbour, the establishment of a Manukau Harbour Authority is essential for its future wellbeing.

But recent events are brining hope for the harbour and changing people’s vision of what the harbour could become. Thanks in large part to the efforts of TOES, the Onehunga Business Association and former Community Board, with assistance from MHRS, the foreshore at Onehunga was restored and opened in November 2015. It has been met with widespread public support. The new beaches, picnic areas, boat ramps, cycle and walking paths are heavily used and people can now envision how the harbour could be restored and enjoyed for recreation.

Creation of Auckland Council means the entire foreshore of the harbour is now within one local government jurisdiction. This provides hope for improved management. The Manukau Harbour Forum, comprised of representatives of the 9 local boards bordering on the harbour is focusing Auckland Council on the harbour’s condition and potential.

Efforts of MHRS, TOES, OBA and Councilwoman Denise Krum have resulted in Panuku Development Auckland (PDA) identifying Onehunga as a top redevelopment priority. PDA is negotiating to acquire the Port of Onehunga from POAL and is beginning to plan for its upgrade and opening it for public use.

Communities such as Waiuku, Mangere Bridge and Pahurehure are removing mangroves from their foreshores assisted by MHRS and Mangere-Otahuhu, Maungakiekie-Tamaki,  Papakura, Franklin and Manurewa local boards. The Puketapapa Local Board is constructing walkways around the northern foreshore from Onehunga and assists with beach clean ups and Pacific Oyster shell removal. Its communities are restoring and protecting original bush areas on the harbour’s edge. Whau Local Board is building the walkway along the historic New Lynn portage and cleaning up its waterways. Waitakere Ranges Local Board is assisting community-led beach cleanups.

Watercare rebuilt the Mangere Waste Treatment Plant, removed the oxidation ponds and restored large sections of the foreshore as bird habitat. A heavily used walking/cycle path now goes from Onehunga across the inlet and around the foreshore to the Otuataua Stonefields.

Local residents, including some visionary elected officials see the harbour as a gem to be restored, protected and enhanced. We have much work to do. The potential is great and the payoff enormous.