13 February 2020
Te Ara Awataha – the path of the Awataha
Te Ara Awataha, Northcote’s new greenway, is a 1.5km network of existing and new reserves that will run through the Northcote neighbourhood, connecting the town centre, schools and homes.
What’s special about this greenway is that it once had a stream, The Awataha running through it, although you wouldn’t know it to look at it; the stream has been confined to an underground pipe since the 1950s.
The spring or ‘puna’ of the stream starts at one end of Northcote in Jessie Tonar Scout Reserve, however over time the waterway had been built over by roads, homes, a sports field and the Northcote town centre. In times of heavy rain, the residents in some of the streets beyond the town centre could kayak down the road as the flooding was so severe, and flooding in homes was a persistent problem.
Now, thanks to input from mana whenua and members of the community, as part of Te Ara Awataha greenway project the Awataha Stream will be brought to light for long distances of the greenway. This regenerative process, known as ‘daylighting’, will boost the mauri (life essence) of the stream, improving water quality and allowing it to become a habitat for birds, insects and tuna (eels) once more. It will also reconnect the community to this lost environmental taonga (treasure).
Isthmus Landscape Architect Helen Kerr has been working with the community for several years to gather input into the design of the greenway.
“The most important thing is restoring the health of the environment, because that will involve people and help grow a healthy community. This reinforces Māori cultural values for living systems, and the special qualities of this place.”
The ecological benefits of the greenway are wide-ranging, providing bird and wildlife habitats, including nationally threatened species such as kōkopu, kōura, and longfin eels.
The greenway will play an important role in the community as an open space for relaxation and recreation and as a place to learn about the natural world. It will also help with overland water flow to reduce flooding so kids can safely get to school without walking through flooded streets.
The gift of a name
Mana whenua have gifted a name to Northcote’s greenway. Te Ara Awataha means ‘the path of the Awataha’ and reflects the deep significance of the water source and cultural connection to mana whenua.
Co-designed with the community
Te Ara Awataha is being jointly delivered by Panuku Development Auckland and Kāinga Ora, working alongside Healthy Waters, the Kaipātiki Local Board and mana whenua. It will feature a shared cycle and walkway that runs the full length of the greenway, making it safe for children to move in and around the neighbourhood.
Kaipātiki Local Board’s chairperson John Gillon says: “It’s great to see the community taking such an active role in revitalising Te Ara Awataha and helping shape Northcote’s future. Restoring the awa to its natural state will offer a natural and unifying destination that also connects the whole community.”
Panuku’s Greenway Project Lead Sara Zwart says designing the greenway with the community will ensure it becomes something that is treasured and cared for by everyone.
“Our engagement and collaborative approach to the project has been designed to instil a sense of kaitiakitanga within the local community. By involving them in the process we hope it will build a sense of ownership or guardianship over the future greenway and as a result, it will be loved and well cared for into the future.”
Design workshops with local schools were held to gather ideas for the greenway. As a result, an outdoor classroom along the portion of Te Ara Awataha that borders the schools has made its way into the plans.
Creating and celebrating a unique sense of place
The project team have been working closely with mana whenua iwi representatives and artists to ensure that Te Ara Awataha captures the unique cultural narratives and values of this place. The design has developed out of a series of cultural health indicators, with a strong focus on healthy people and healthy environments.
Mana whenua artworks and integrated cultural design elements have been included to ensure that Te Ara Awataha uniquely represents this place, and it’s cultural and natural histories.
Restoring Jessie Tonar Scout Reserve
The community has been getting behind the project through the restoration of the Jessie Tonar Scout Reserve at the end of Kākā Street and the source of the Awataha Stream. Kaipātiki Project is delivering the restoration of the reserve on behalf of Panuku and the community has been volunteering their time and labour to remove weeds, plant natives, and monitor water quality.
Since the restoration commenced, an increasing variety of birds have been observed at the reserve including tuī, kererū, kotare and tauhou as well as familiar introduced species. Recently a neighbour captured video of a kākā – marking the first local sighting of the native in over 30 years.