About 60 people attended a meeting at the Performing Arts Centre last Thursday to hear speakers on the Greening of the Kapiti Environment. Those addressing the group included environmental historian Catherine Knight, former KCDC Biodiversity Officer Rob Cross, Whale Song promoter Marco Zeeman and a member of the local iwi.
Catherine Knight emphasised that green space is good for us and referred to research that showed that people in hospitals and rest homes who have views of nature, had better morale and more positive feelings. A Danish study has also concluded that children who can look out on the natural environment are less likely to have mental problems.
Towns and cities around the country have been working on creating more green spaces in their urban environments in recent years and Kapiti has a unique opportunity to improve on existing natural areas such as the lower reaches of the Wharemauku Stream.
The flow of the Wharemauku Stream through central Kapiti
The Stream flows out of the hills behind Paraparaumu, under the old State Highway, beneath the main Coastlands complex, under the expressway, round the south side of the airport and into the sea at Raumati Beach. Some 200 years ago it was a larger meandering waterway used by native waka and was a source of food for the resident hapu.
Over the last 50 years it has been subject to occasional flooding and in 1976 overflowed its banks west of Paraparaumu and formed a huge lake. The northern 300 metres of Kiwi Road was flooded and one local resident rowed a boat up the street!
Flooding in November 2016.
The building of the expressway has resulted in the development of major wetlands between Paraparaumu and Raumati, and today flooding is a thing of the past, as any overflow from the stream is dissipated into a labyrinth of channels and terminal ponds to the south of the walkway.
There are two groups which have worked for years on improving the Wharemauku environment — one in Kaitawa Reserve close to the hills and the other in Paraparaumu on banks and along paths close to Rimu Road and Ihakara Street.
However, concerns remain over the state of the stream, especially —
pollution from nearby businesses
toxic material in the tributary drains
the periodic dredging of the main stream to increase its depth
the weeds and blackberry along and near it banks.
One specific proposal is the well-advertised Whale Song project of Marco Zeeman. This project would see a group of large whale sculptures raised above ground and a number of paths, bridges and buildings developed in the section west and south of the Rimu Road bridge. Some reservations were expressed at the meeting and former KCD Biodiversity Officer, Rob Cross, suggested that ecologists should be consulted before it gets the green light. There is a danger that instead of greening the environment beyond some token plantings and grass verges, a cultural overlay would be imposed on the natural landscape.
The Raumati section
Planting in August 2017
The lower reaches of the Wharemauku need to be remembered in any development programme as the stream passes under the expressway, south of the airport and west of Weka Park as it winds through suburbia and into the Tasman Sea. In this section it goes under Alexander and Matatua Roads via culverts and is crossed by four foot and cycle bridges. Untidy banks are a problem in this area.
The meeting was essentially an awareness raising exercise and there will be on-going discussions on the future development of the Wharemauku Stream.