September 12, 2018

Friends of Waiwhetu Stream reach important milestone with 20,000 plants

The Friends of Waiwhetu Stream have removed more than 500,000 Cape Pond-weeds. From left Merilyn Merritt, Nic Vipond, Allan White, Andrew Campbell-Stokes, Franz Hubmann, Matthew Lear and Chrissie Burt in 2014.[/caption]

The old adage about it being a tough job but someone has to do it, applies to the Friends of the Waiwhetu Stream.

The Friends are responsible for 9 kilometres of the stream that once had the tag of the most polluted waterway in New Zealand.

In 2009 the regional council spent $6 million removing a toxic sludge of heavy metals and poisons from the stream. Reports at the time said that the stream was so toxic it once caught fire.

The Friends subsequently began a project to bring the stream back to life by removing weeds and rubbish, as well as planting natives along its banks.

They recently achieved a significant milestone with the planting of the 20,000th plant.

Friends chair and driving force Merilyn Merrett said reaching the milestone was significant. "It is amazing to think where we've come from. Only a few years ago the stream was renowned as being the most contaminated stream in New Zealand."

Volunteers have come St Paul's Church, the English Teaching College and the Wā Ora Montessori School in Naenae.

Planting is not the only hard work the Friends do. Over one weekend in August, a total of 24 bags of rubbish was collected by 25 volunteers, which took more than 25 hours in total to collect.

"Maintaining the quality of the stream and its surrounds certainly takes time, effort and energy by a lot of people,"Merrett said.

"It's  testament to how much the stream is valued by our local community that so many people give of their time. It's certainly paying dividends when you see the number of people enjoying the stream on a daily basis – it makes all the work we do so rewarding."

While the planting and maintaining of the stream continues to be a major focus, the Friends are looking to embark on a new venture – developing signage plotting the history of the stream.

Their long-term vision is to create a healthy and vibrant stream that the city can be proud of.