A wetland created by Auckland Council three years ago on D’Oyly Reserve has fallen far short of what was promised, according to neighbours and park users, with some describing it online as “a rat-infested, weedy mess”.
By contrast, Hibiscus Coast Forest & Bird, which first pushed for the creation of the wetland 10 years ago, claims it is “a major environmental success story” – a view that a number of residents agree with, saying it might not be beautiful, but it has more beneficial life in it than mown grass.
The wetland, in Stanmore Bay, is the result of Council turning a piped stream into a more environmentally sustainable wetland. Previously the reserve was mown grass that got boggy in winter when a stormwater pipe frequently overflowed.
As well as a place for plants, birds, insects, lizards and fish to thrive, the restoration was done to enable the community to enjoy the reserve, year-round.
The project cost $1.5 million, $1.1m of which came from the developers of 20 Link Crescent, McConnell Property, in mitigation for piping a natural stream that had flowed through their land.
Local residents, including Vicki Rapson, were enthusiastic about the wetland when the plan was consulted on.
“We saw a lot of pretty drawings, but it doesn’t look like that now,” she says. “There were supposed to be native trees, fruit trees and natural seating on rocks. It all sounded nice and it is disappointing to see what’s materialised.”
She says in dry weather the stream vanishes beneath weeds and one path floods after heavy rain, making it unusable.
Nearby residents also describe a smell of stagnant water and an increase in rats and mice.
Volunteers of the Pest Free Hibiscus Coast project began trapping rats in the reserve last October, working with the students of Stanmore Bay School.
Coordinator Jenny Hanwell says rat numbers don’t appear high, relative to other parts of the Coast.
Since predator control began, around 60-70 rats have been removed, although bait is also used, so the number killed could be higher. The numbers caught are expected to increase in autumn and winter.
Birdlife appears to be flourishing. Although it’s early in the restoration process, those working on bird count surveys in the reserve have seen paradise shelducks with young and a resident white faced heron. There are more blackbirds and pukekos – a trend that is higher at D’Oyly wetland than elsewhere on the peninsula.
“We are keen to get the people who live around the reserve involved in trapping to help protect this site,” Jenny says. “NZ has lost 90 percent of its wetlands since European settlement, so even restoring small ones like this provides valuable habitat, as well as filtering and cleaning the water as it flows through.
“To improve the birdlife we recommend further restoration work, with additional plantings of native trees. It would be great if the community could be involved,” she says.
Stanmore Bay principal Matt Sides says it has been a valuable area for students to study, including looking at water quality. He says a subcontractor, who was part of developing the wetland, recently approached the school for permission to work there again to improve the aesthetics.
“The person feels that it has been ignored since completion. I can’t wait to see it go back to what it was originally designed to look like,” Matt says.
Weeds clog the waterway
Creating the wetland meant losing an off-leash area to exercise dogs. Claire Tierney flagged her concerns about this at the recent Hibiscus and Bays Local Board Parks Management Plan hearing.
“No other space was made available to replace that off leash area, and now it’s just a mess of weeds going to seed,” Claire says.
Council’s Healthy Waters division general manager, Craig Mcilroy, says weed removal is done as required over the year – more often in the warmer months. There were two major stints of work: the first between April and June 2019 and the second between November 2019 and the end of February 2020.
He says that last year native plants appeared to be largely taking over.
“The remaining weeds have recently been sprayed and we will be planting specimen trees in April/May when they are more likely to survive and establish themselves,” Craig says. “This will also help to provide shade and cool the stream.”
He says organic material such as leaves and grass rot in shallow water. This uses up the oxygen in the stream and naturally produces sulphur dioxide, which can have a strong smell and turns the water a dark colour.
“Although it looks and smells unpleasant, it is a natural process and will be restored when there is more rain.”
He says the area is designed to receive water from the built up residential area around it and by doing so reduces the possibility of homes flooding.
“There will definitely be times when the water prevents people from walking through the area and at those times people should not utilise this area, for their own safety.”