The river came to our attention when Dr Nick Smith, the Minister for the Environment, named it in Parliament as a very polluted river “that nobody has ever wanted or tried to swim in”.
What we know about Lucas Creek
We investigated this claim and found there were many local people working for the restoration of the river and many who recall a healthy river famous for its community swimming events. We also found that Waicare – the urban waters group from Auckland City Council – are very active in working for this river’s improvement. Our research reminded us that a number of manawhenua hapu have a deep intergenerational whakapapa based connected to the creek and surrounding areas. Ngāti Whatua ki Kaipara, and Ngāti Whatua ki Orākēi, Te Kawerau a Maki and Ngāti Te Ata all have connections.
We have been learning from the history that the river has been known as Okahukura and also some have known it as Kaipātiki.
The river is affected by extensive urban development. This includes large quantities of sediment from subdivision, plus heavy metals and hydrocarbons from road runoff, and stormwater and sewage overflows from suburbs.
I visited quite a few places along the creek the day after heavy rain. We tried to figure out how the creek made its way through the city streets to the harbour but it was quite confusing to non-locals.
Lucas Creek Albany, after the rain pic.twitter.com/RvVpzqE3oY
— Catherine Delahunty (@greencatherine) November 7, 2016
The planting along the creek in Hooten Park in Albany is impressive. The creek then enters a labyrinth of urban streets and re-emerges between the mangroves at the back of quiet streets. It is not a small stream but a strong waterway wide enough for kayaking, and was very brown from run-off after the rain. The river eventually broadens into the harbour near Greenhithe.
This river is in the heart of an urban community but as the water nears the bottom of the developed catchment it faces huge challenges.
We are holding a public meeting on November 24 to discuss the strategies that can help restore the river to health, because we know much can be done in urban design and restoration to help, and to prove how wrong the Minister for the Environment is about Lucas Creek.