The Hidden Streams of Wellington: the Waitangi Stream
The foreshore of Wellington Harbour – Te Whanganui-a-Tara – has borne a lot of dramatic changes in its history, even over the last 100-150 years. This is what the Te Aro foreshore looked like in 1860 and 1900. You can see in the right of the upper photo, the Willis Street and Manner Street intersection. Bond Street is on the left, bordering the beach. In the distance, below Mount Victoria, you can see the wetlands of the Waitangi Stream.
By 1900, Waitangi Stream is underground and the sprawl of Te Aro, the brickworks, the abatoirs, the gas works – many commentators named it a ‘slum’ – was a epidemic.
By the time I was resident it Wellington, Te Papa was built, and the site between that museum and Oriental Parade was a wasteland. Someone in the WCC had the foresight of renovating this land for a park – Waitangi Park. The streams that used to be underground was chanelled into a wetlands area with native reeds and rushes, flax and short shrubs – basically, a formal/informal ‘natural’ area.
The park is a brilliant success. Many people play soccer or picnic and every so often a festival or a circus set up camp on the ground. But what is most impressive it the way the stream has revitalised the environment. The site was a boggy, stinky mess – now the stream flows refreshed to the harbour.
Apparently, the native fish and eels travel up the stream, and the culverts and pipes beyond that, to spawn in Prince of Wales Park, about 2kms away. At least their egress and exit from the harbour is much improved!
The Hidden Streams of Wellington: the Waimapihi Stream (the Te Aro Stream).
The Waimapihi Stream headwaters are on the hill from the Polhill Reserve, below the Wellington Wind Turbine. The name – ‘Waters of Maipihi’ – referred to Mapihi, a rangatira of Ngāi Tara and Ngāi Mamoe descent. He used to bathe in a pool at the upper course of the stream. Now it is a bush reserve and the stream rushes down a rocky channel to a upper end of Holloway Road. A vague path crosses over the streambed amongst tawa, kotukuktuku and the odd rimu tree. Tui, pīwakawaka, ruru, korimako (bellbird) play in the branches – and occasional visiting tieke (saddleback), hihi (stitchbird) and kaka from Zealandia. It is a quiet, peaceful place. The stream bed pools at the the reserve boundary – BUT it disappears again in a caged entrance to a underground culvert, never to be seen again…
But wait … there is more …
When the V Service Station renovated their property in 2012. they discovered that the Waimapihi Stream was under their feet. The petrol station is just west of Cuba Street, opposite Logan Brown Restaurant. Historically, the stream flowed through Holloway Road, Te Aro Street, Cuba Street and just south of Manner Street. At that point it flowed to the harbour, because the earthquakes and reclamation were not existing then. It is unclear when the stream was buried in the culvert. A trail of blue-waves marks the underground culvert on the forecourt. The personnel of the Z Service Station and the Taranaki whānau as mana whenua blessed the site and erected a shrine or a sculpture commemorating the stream existence. The bricks of the sculpture were made from the culvert itself. Well done – at least the stream has some acknowledgement…
The Hidden Streams of Wellington: the Pipitea Stream.
The visible part of the Pipitea Stream is located in the Wellington Botanical Gardens. The cultured ‘unruliness’ of the native slopes have steep-sided tumbling watercourses that look natural (below, upper left), and maybe they are – but most of the water for the stream is supplied by pipes and stormwater drains from the roads above (below, upper centre and right). Still, the Pipitea Stream is a picturesque and scenic sight (and site!) Pools and waterfalls abound (below, left and right) – but the stream is already piped under the bridges on the bordering path that runs from Glenn Road to the duck pond.
Often we park along Glenn Road when the Sound Shell has a summer concert. When it is dark, we saunter along the path and look at the myriad glow worms on the bank above the stream – a starry constellation. Hopefully, other walkers don’t disturb the insects with loud talking and lights.
The Pipitea Stream pools at the circular pond – a collecting spot for ducks and children (below, above left and right). It spills over a dam, dives under the path and emerges amongst the manicured ‘chaos’ of a structured informal garden (below, lower, left) … and then – imprisoned, caged, subjugated ! (below, lower right.)
The stream descends in to the dark and never returns again!
[Apparently, it is piped under Tinakori Road, the motorway, the maze of railway tracks, and the Westpac Stadium to eventually make it to the harbour.]
The Hidden of Streams of Wellington: the Waipiro Stream.
I have mentioned this one before – my blog on 15 October 2015 about the Art Trail, but it deserves to be mentioned again.
The Waipiro Stream used to meander down beside Parliament ‘hill’ – Bowen Street. At that time Lambton Quay was the waterfront. It was alonside of Pipitea Pa and their extensive vegetable gardens. The name – ‘wai’+’piro’ – is not very complementary. It refers to a stagnant pool at the bottom of the stream – ‘strong smelling water’. Maybe it is appropriate for Parliament?
Now, the stream has vanished into drain and pipes somewhere under the roads and buildings. When they redeveloped this area in 2015, an artist called Joe Sheehan commemorated the disappearance of the Waipiro Stream.
The paved area between the Cenotaph (above, lower left) and the steps up to the Beehive (above, lower right) has a number of trees, reeds, and benches for pedestrians. Now, Joe Sheehan has laid a convoluted path of pounamu medallions that trace the Waipiro streambed (above, upper – enhanced image, and lower centre and right). Not only that, he has a soundscape of what he imagines the Waipiro Stream environment would have sounded like. Audio speakers (lower centre and right) follow the path with the sound of rattling stones, water drops and ripples, bird calls and bush babble. It is enchanting – but I encourage to hear it when the traffic is not noisy – maybe in the morning on a weekend!
The Hidden Streams of Wellington: the Moturoa Stream.
Even when bush-clad reserves are involved, the beginning of many streams in Wellington are fed by drains and stormwater pipes on their upper slopes. The Moturoa Stream emerges from a stormwater drain (upper, left) below the junction of Brooklyn Road and Ohiro Road. It plunges down a rocky slope to a stream bed that burbles and rushes (if some rain precedes in the last few days) beside a path. The path is crossed by 12 bridges. The bridges are all sorts of construction – five of them have a pleasing S-shape (right), others are more perfunctory. There is an historic bridge too. The stream is cared for by a voluntary group of people – the Friends of Central Park – and they have built a patio area below the historic bridge. Tui, kaka, pīwakawaka, ruru are frequent residents in the bush. The stream greets the bush for about 1km – but it sinks into the ground at a culvert north of the main north entrance (left, lower) – and it never emerges into the daylight again…
The Hidden Streams of Wellington
The first stream to be culverted was the Kumutoto Stream in 1866. It used to be 1.48km long. Its headwaters are up above what is now Victoria University and it descends in a gully beside the Victoria Squash Club in Salamanca Road – its only brief existence in the open air. The stream is interred into a another culvert and plunges beneath the motorway beside the north entrance of the Terrace Tunnel. It wends it way beneath the buildings on the Terrace, Lambton Quay, Featherston Street and Customhouse Quay and makes it way to the harbour at the Kina Sculptures (and Wagamama) on the waterfront.
It used to be 1.48km long. Its unpiped existence is now 0.094km long – 94metres. Usain Bolt can run the length of the unpiped section of Kumutoto Stream in under 10 seconds.
A reminder: a soundscape by Kedron Parker is beneath a underpass on The Terrace. It pipes (that word again with a new usage!) an aural example of what he thought the natural environment was before humans were here – cf. my blog at 24th October 2015.
Enough of the random posts!
For the next few blogs I am considering the Hidden Streams of Wellington.
Before the European invasion, and before the Maori invasion, the ‘Wellington’ landscape was a maze, a puzzle, of rivers, streams, wetlands and swamps. The hillsides funneled the rain and drizzle with riverlets to the harbour. When the Maori arrived, many marae and pa were formed. The Europeans arrived about 1830 and they created a fledgling city called ‘Britannia’ – but it was speedily rechristened ‘Wellington’ in honour of their absent Duke.
When the earthquakes in 1848 and 1855 (the latter was 8.2 on the Richter scale) reformed the city – Oriental Bay was uplifted by 1.5metres – reclamation and draining the wetlands and swaps were a priority for the authorities. Most of the waterways were severely polluted, so the solution was piping and culverting the streams underground.
Nowadays, in 2016, the Hidden Streams of Wellington amount to 95.5% of the waterways in the city – only 4.5% of the streams are unpiped.
Statistics can obscure the facts, so another fact is important.
Only 25 kilometres of unpiped streams exist in Wellington – 550 kilometres are piped underground!!!!!
I will be exploring some of the streams that I know exist in the next few blogs….