The Danger to Motions Creek/Waiōrea

a “very significant stream”, an “understated gem”
Wendy Gray to Waitematā Local Board for their Western Springs Forest workshop

Mindful that

  1. Motions Creek/Waiōrea is a taonga to mana whenua and tribes with histories in Tamaki Makaurau that is home to important fauna and flora,
  2. Motions Creek/Waiōrea was left outside the perimeter of the Resource Consent area,
  3. Consultation with mana whenua took place in the absence of key information and senior players therefore reliance on their agreement is unsafe,
  4. The stakeholder responsible for the management and maintenance of Motions Creek/Waiōrea, Healthy Waters, has never been formally consulted,
  5. Council Community Facilities (CCF) have accepted that tree-felling and earthworks on Western Springs Forest will impact Motions Creek/Waiōrea as sediment control measures are planned,
  6. These control measures are based on a dry season scenario,
  7. Council Community Facilities (CCF) plans to start tree-felling operations on 6 April i.e. near the end of earthworks season, leading into Auckland’s wettest months,
  8. The proposed earthworks for the track and landing sites, will destroy a maturing Kauri and other protected maturing native trees which are over 4 metres in height and are therefore ‘protected’ trees,
  9. The houses of stakeholders on West View Road have not been surveyed as required,
  10. Ratepayers are already extremely upset and frustrated from their experiences of tree losses on Mangere Mountain, Ōhuiarangi and at Big Mac, Canal Road, etc. and therefore likely to react very emotionally to a significant tree-felling exercise following on so soon,
  11. The proposed earth stablisation is manifestly inadequate: no plants can be expected to provide significant ground stabilisation within 6 months’ growth over winter,
  12. The risks for an environmental disaster caused by the proposed tree-felling and earthworks is very considerable and irreversible,

    I ask the Board to
  1. Instruct Council Community Facilities (CCF) to delay commencement of works to the beginning of Auckland’s earthworks season i.e. 1 October,
  2. Use the time to survey stakeholder’s houses,
  3. Consult with Healthy Waters to construct measures to ensure there will be absolutely no risk to Motions Creek/Waiōrea as a result of tree-felling and earthworks commencing in October.

    Wendy Gray
Detailed supporting statements and evidence:
  1. The Western Springs Forest is the only functioning 98-year old mixed native and non-native forest it Auckland Central. It has the tallest trees in Auckland Central. The pines were planted in 1923 and is today a prominent landmark (Mike Wilcox 2012)
  2. At the bottom of the Forest is Motions Creek/Waiōrea. Considered by some ecologists who have studied it to be a very significant stream, an “understated gem”, which has never been properly surveyed.
  3. It is beyond doubt that the stream will be affected by Council Community Facilities’(CCF) project to harvest the pines from Western Springs Forest yet the Resource Consent (RC) application boundary was drawn along the north bank of the stream thereby excluding it from consideration in the Resource Consent process.
  4. This means that Council’s proposal was the only matter consulted on with mana whenua.
  5. The stakeholder responsible for the management and maintenance of Motions Creek/Waiōrea is Healthy Waters and as far as I am aware this stakeholder has never been formally consulted because the stream was outside the RC area. I believe that it is beyond doubt that Healthy Waters is a stakeholder who should have been consulted and involved in consideration of the significant potential risks of CCF’s project. Healthy Waters is not included in the stakeholder group which Council has met and is continuing to meet with. This is a major omission now that it has become clear that CCF is proceeding with this risky project outside Council’s earthworks season and without proper soil and erosion advice.
  6. Ridley Dunphy’s report on Soil and Erosion control recommendations and Universal Soil Loss Equation dated 26 February 2021 were prepared for a dry season scenario. We now know the proposal is to undertake this risky project during the wet season.
  7. Because the slope which the pines are on is directly above the stream rainfall will dislodge loose material that will flow directly into Motions Creek/Waiōrea.
  8. Over the last 8-10 years it is believed that sediment has been building up in Motions Creek/Waiōrea. This is already damaging for the biodiversity present in the stream.
  9. Motions Creek/Waiōrea has never been surveyed nor has the potential risks, and possible consequences of this project to this stream, and its biodiversity, ever been considered by CCF and those mana whenua tribes CCF and WLB have consulted.
  10. Motions Creek/Waiōrea is a precious taonga for mana whenua and the ancient tribes of Tāmaki Makaurau. It is a vital link for the at risk – declining taonga Longfin eel to travel from Western Springs lake to the ocean for its reproductive cycle and for its return to Western Springs Lake.
  11. Collecting together the information that we do have about the flora of Waiōrea; from “A survey of Western Springs” was undertaken by Mike Wilcox and Ben Goodwin published in the Auckland Botanical Society Journal December 2019“.

    Motions Creek flows from the Western Springs lake along a rock- walled channel and then through the Auckland Zoo and Jaggers Bush to the Waitemata Harbour off Meola Road.
    The rock walls have an interesting flora, especially ferns.
    Introduced ferns found here are Cyrtomium falcatum (Fig. 18), Cystopteris fragilis (Fig. 19), tuber ladder fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia) and Pteris cretica, together with African club-moss (Selaginella kraussiana).
    Native ferns present are Asplenium oblongifolium, Austroblechnum lanceolatum, Diplazium australe, Doodia mollis, Histiopteris incisa and Hypolepis dicksonioides (Fig. 20).
    Other plants on the creek banks are mistflower (Ageratina riparia), ivy-leaved toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis), Mexican daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus), galinsoga (Galinsoga quadriradiata), tree daisy (Dahlia excelsa) – a large clump, Geranium gardneri, G. homeanum, G. purpureum, creeping mallow (Modiola caroliniana), grey sedge (Carex divulsa), Juncus usitatus, Natal lily (Crinum moorei), Setaria palmifolia, Ehrharta erecta, Cestrum nocturnum, Polygonum capitatum, hemlock (Conium maculatum), Artemisia verlotiorum, tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum) and Japanese walnut.
    Aquatic plants recorded from the edge of the stream or submerged are Glossostigma elatinoides, Isolepis inundata, Myriophyllum propinquum, and the moss Leptodictyon riparium
    The principal aquatic mosses in Western Springs and Motions Creek are (nationally endangered) Fissidens berteroi, F. leptocladus, F. ridiulus and Leptodictyon riparium (Fig 29)
  1. The Fauna that was seen in the Waiōrea is known to include: common bully, at risk – declining torrentfish (which only occur in Waiōrea and Oakley Creek), at risk –declining longfin eel, at risk -declining Inanga galaxiae , short fin eels, smelt.
  2. This list is not exhaustive but it gives you a flavour of why this stream is considered to be a “very significant stream”, an “understated gem”.
  3. The consultation that took place with mana whenua throughout the RC process and, prior to WLB’s decision taken on 3 November 20, at the hastily called meeting on 29 October 2020, did not include any information about Waiōrea. This was a significant omission.
  4. The recent Ridley Dunphy report for soil and erosion control fails to address the issue of stability of the slope, when will the slope be stable? This is important because the last Category 2 storm in Auckland happened in April 2018. To start this project in April is extremely risky for Waiōrea when the controls rely entirely on human judgment of Treescape who are arborists not soil and erosion control specialists.
  5. I take issue with Ridley Dunphy’s claims that the soil and erosion controls can be removed 6 to 12 months “following completion of the harvesting operation”. Here is my submission from the RC application:
    5.22 There is a “window of vulnerability” which Pinus radiata forest scientists have studied. As set out in The Listener Article May 12-18 2018, Attachment 9 page 21, The Pine Problem at page 24, “On clear-felled slopes, the roots of Pinus radiata hold the soil for the first year after harvest, but then quickly rot. Peter Weir, a hydrologist and slope-stability specialist who is president of the Forest Owners Association, says “Between year two and year six [harvested slopes} are highly vulnerable”. 
    Foresters typically replant a new crop of radiata seedlings within a year of harvest, but Weir says these “do nothing” to hold the soil for the first couple of years. By year three to four, their roots are getting established, and by year five to six, they are “doing a pretty good job”.
    But, clear-felling has a second effect on the soil. Weir says about a third of rainfall is intercepted by the canopy of mature forest and evaporates rather rather than reaching the ground. But clear-felling removes that protection: the soil is wetter and more prone to slips in heavy rain.
    “So harvesting triggers a process that, through time, makes the slope more vulnerable if a severe storm comes along.”
    On flatter land, the risks are minimal. But…. on steep land…., once cleared by harvest, is liable to shed mud and debris flows during storms.”
  6. I also spoke to Peter Weir who told me that if natives are planted it takes longer, up to 10 years plus for the slope to stabilise.
  7. This has huge risk implications for Waiōrea and clearly CCF has failed to do all it can to ensure that the risks of this project are known and considered by all stakeholders.
  8. Having been told throughout the RC process that the hillside will be replanted immediately after the works. There is a suggestion in the Ridley Dunphy report at p.22? that this “may” happen. Not that it “will” happen.
  9. This CCF project is unnecessarily invasive demonstrating a problem with ecological literacy of CCF.
  10. I ask that the WLB consider delaying this project until AC’s dry season next year. The risk to Waiōrea has not been assessed, nor considered with mana whenua, and WLB have not been given the necessary information for them to be able to assess the risks of undertaking this project in AC’s wet season.
  11. On 3 November 2020 2 members of the WLB gave the reasons for their decision was because, “mana whenua supported CCF’s project”, I submit it would be unsafe for WLB to allow CCF to proceed with this harvesting project this wet season and that it should be delayed for 7 months until the dry season after 1 October 2021.
  12. WLB can in the meantime make sure that mana whenua are properly consulted on the possible risks to Waiōrea, the taonga at risk – declining longfin eel and other native species present in this taonga waterway.