Twice a year, Chris Burton and a team of volunteers descend to the banks of the Henderson Creek in Te Atatū South. They walk into the mangroves that grow near where the stream meets the Waitematā Harbour and pluck out mounds of other people’s trash.
On any given day they’ll fill up to 25 black bin bags. There’s discarded milk bottles, drink bottles and food wrappers. But there’s also more unusual ephemera – household items and coconuts that have floated in from afar. More than once, Burton has pulled a safe out of the stream.
“I think over years and years, we’ve neglected water quality and put our waterways second,” he says.
“There’s an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality. It’s not until you scratch below the surface that you see how big the problem is.”
Henderson Creek’s story is a familiar one in Auckland. Despite a modern culture of innovation and improvement, looking after our waterways is a constant reckoning with the practices of the past.
For too long, Aucklanders didn’t really connect the dots between the liquid falling from the sky, flowing from our taps and pouring down our drains, and the health of our waterways. We’re already cleaning our water in state-of-the-art treatment plants, protecting our groundwater and building new wastewater infrastructure, but there’s plenty more we need to do.
Clean, healthy water is essential to our future. As our region continues to grow and change, we need to look after this precious taonga. Visit akhaveyoursay.nz to have your say on how we should waterproof our future. Feedback is open until 19 April. Read more about the Our Water Future: Auckland's water discussion on OurAuckland.