Like-minds and moving messages at Manukau Harbour Symposium

Publish Date : 13 Aug 2019
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The Manukau Harbour is under significant threat, and communities grasping the environmental mantel is the only way to protect its health, environmental experts warned at the 2019 Manukau Harbour Symposium.

Held at the environmentally friendly MIT Manukau campus building, approximately 80 people braved the winter weather and joined the symposium event on 3 August.

The Symposium is an annual event held by the Manukau Harbour Forum, a group which represents the nine local boards which surround the Manukau, created in 2010 as a means to enable a more collaborative response to concerns for the deteriorating state of the harbour environment.  

Manukau Harbour Forum Chair Saffron Toms opened the forums third symposium noting that even though all those gathered in the room were passionate in improving the quality of the Manukau Harbour that it is currently still in a poor state.

She identified that the culmination of over one hundred years of irresponsible and reckless use of the harbour and tributaries, mostly from land clearance, irresponsible management of the effects of urban land-use and industry, as well as using the harbour as a treatment pond for Auckland’s sewerage, has had a telling effect.

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The limited ability to moderate and manage these negative impacts has been exacerbated by the historical fragmented governance – where the harbour was under the jurisdiction of several different territorial authorities. Chair Toms identified that

“Now the opportunity for the harbour under the new Supercity arrangement where the governance of the harbour is the responsibility of one local government entity. The challenge and opportunity for Auckland Council is getting to grips with what that responsibility looks like and giving it the funding, resources and importance, it deserves. This requires acknowledging the taonga that is the harbour as well as the past abuse and neglect of it and acting to restore it to its full potential.”

Keynote speaker Andrew Chin, Water Manager at Auckland Council told the conference that the increasing number of issues faced by the harbour are certainly an indication of the climate emergency recently declared by Auckland Council. He also touched on the water shortage currently facing the city, which is blamed partially on the massive water use per capita of this city, and he discussed the recent water consultation which showed people were willing to get involved.

“People are putting their hands up, recognising there is a problem, and showing willingness to be involved, which is incredibly important”, he says.

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Andrew Chin and Brett Butland

Pest Free Auckland Programme Director Brett Butland, explained that most visitors to Auckland (and indeed New Zealand, Aotearoa) visit primarily for the natural resources and that these resources are in managed decline. 

“The key to success is through community understanding the issue and taking the environmental mantel, following the steps: place traps, pull weeds, plant natives”, he says.  

Butland provided some frightening facts and figures including that Kauri will disappear within the next 30 years.

“We need to throw out the box and look outside of it for a solution.  We need to do things differently, starting right now”.  Encouragingly he also noted that a majority indicated support for the Natural Environment Targeted Rate and a total investment of $311 million. 

Buua Redfern introduced South Auckland Young Environmentalists (SAYE) as a newly formed youth-led environmental organisation growing out of the Manukau Harbour Forum support of Young Leaders Development Programme.

SAYE focuses on supporting young people of Māori and Pacific Island from across south Auckland to connect and grow their own networks and environmental passions. Buua spoke of the passion and desire as an 18-year-old to get involved with projects that improve the areas she lives in and of the challenges that the team are experiencing including transport to get to places to be involved, being seen as credible by others with the same interests and learning how to link into the mainstream system.

Continuing the theme of environmental innovation five emerging leaders spoke to their concept pitch of Wahapū Guardians. The speakers were fresh from a GHD supported Smart Seeds corporate challenge where organisations nominate staff to join with others from different businesses in a design-led innovation challenge.

The speakers looked to the challenge ‘how does Auckland connect with its three harbours and ensure they are a part of the city’s growth and future success’. Wahapū Guardians is a proposal that creates an incentive for people to engage with volunteer projects which benefit the health of waterways (such as riparian planting, beach clean-ups) in return for a token. The environmental tokens can be used for discounts on recreational activities on.

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Johnnie Freeland (Ngaati Te ata Waiohua) finished the day with an impactful session sharing insights around Mātauranga Māori, Māori knowledge systems. Mātauranga Māori is anchored around a holistic philosophy where all is interconnected through symbiotic whakapapa.

Since the founding of Auckland in 1840 western values and imperatives, which Johnnie describes as square systems thinking, have been imposed on mana whenua who have experienced significant negative impacts and enjoyed minimal benefits with a disconnection and displacement of Mātauranga Māori.

Johnnie spoke of the opportunity that exists for a pathway to well-being through moving back to circular systems thinking with an understanding and actions required around the symbiotic-whakapapa relationships to nature, the land and the people. Success will only come through collaborative partnering and utilising the knowledge that has been built over 1000 years in Tāmaki Makaurau and 50,000 years across Moana-nui-a-Kiwa.

Chair Toms thanked those in the room for their efforts and identified that more needs to be done to acknowledge the many in the community who’ve worked at a local level to improve the wellbeing of the harbour and how they can be further supported taking their efforts even further with integrated support across catchment-wide initiatives.

The Manukau Harbour Symposium for 2019, was another success for the harbour, because the meeting of minds from this community event is part of an increasing awareness and public move towards environmentally led decision making, and action by leaders and communities alike.

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