Nicky Solomon takes water sample from Mangarau Stream

Our local streams are in distress and have been calling out for help for years. Now, for some of them, help is on the way. 

The driving force behind a fresh initiative to breathe new life into Havelock North streams is Dr Nicky Solomon.

On seeing the degraded state of the Mangarau Stream which flows through their recently-purchased property, Nicky’s attention turned to finding a solution to mitigate decades of chronic neglect.

Finding community solutions to community problems is something Nicky thrives on.

Having moved from Gisborne with her husband and two daughters, Nicky is keen to become immersed in the local community here, in the same way that she did during her fourteen years there.  Nicky likes to pay it forward, putting her time and energy into worthwhile projects.

She was one of the community champions behind Tairāwhiti’s successful ‘Flag the Bag’ campaign which aimed to eliminate single plastic bag use in 2016, three years before they were banned nationwide. That eco-friendly project stopped tens of thousands of bags ending up in landfill each week.

Having contacted the Hastings District Council about the poor state of the Mangarau Stream, Nicky was impressed when a manager brought Nathan Burkepile, who is the province’s Regional Coordinator for the New Zealand Landcare Trust, out for a preliminary inspection.

Nathan, who has a background in wetlands and stream restoration was immediately interested and, late last month, he contacted local interested parties and convened the inaugural meeting of the Havelock North Streams Community Group.  This meeting brought together representatives of a range of groups doing great work in various local reserves.

The Herehere, Mangarau, Tekahika and Karituwhenua streams start in the Havelock hills, flow through the village and enter the Karamū Stream.

Nathan told us how these waterways are suffering from ‘Urban Stream Syndrome’, badly neglected and often used as a dumping ground. He says that to improve stream quality in Havelock North, we need to start the restoration from the top of the catchment and continue all the way down to where the streams flow into the Karamū. 

As he pointed out, “We can’t improve the water quality in the Karamū until we address the water quality of all the streams flowing into it.”  

Sheep and cattle are grazing close to these streams (and sometimes in them), plastic and general detritus seems to be everywhere and some neighbours are throwing garden rubbish into them. Nicky wants to build on the momentum that already exists, thanks to various local environmental projects involving Forest and Bird, school and marae projects and company-led planting projects (e.g., Bostock) to encourage neighbourhoods to play an important role in the renaissance of these tributaries.

Nicky is keen to collaborate with local councils who should be able to support communities with planning, expertise and equipment.  She hopes they’ll put their resources into helping with the initial clean-up and follow up with mass planting along the waterways to improve bank stability and create shade – a good long-term solution.

Riparian planting was included in HDC’s 2015 Reserve Management Plan for Tainui Reserve but, disappointingly, six years later, not a single tree or native shrub has been planted along the Mangarau Stream within the reserve.

The potential to create wildlife corridors along these natural waterways is enormous and native birds and aquatic life would really benefit from improved habitat. 

Currently, the Herehere and Mangarau Streams are absolutely choked with weeds, with the Herehere shamefully rated as one of the most polluted streams in the country.

To achieve better water quality and biodiversity in our urban streams, Nathan says that community groups and individual landowners need to collaborate. “This is a grassroots movement with the community coming together for the greater good.”  

To get the ball rolling, Nicky set up a Facebook page called Havelock North Streams Restoration Project, which has generated immediate interest and feedback.

Village residents expressed concern about the neglected state of the streams in various locations and were keen to become involved.  

Last week, Nicky and I met with Hawke’s Bay Regional Councillor, Craig Foss, who told us he is on a mission to clean up the Karamū Stream and also wanted to be involved.  His message, written up earlier in BayBuzz, is short and sweet… “Let’s ‘Rescue the Karamū’ and have the cleanest urban waterways in the country.”

Lofty ambitions maybe and, while no easy task and, certainly, no quick fix, it’s an inspiring goal to aim for. Is it an achievable objective? Hopefully and possibly it is, if all stakeholders commit to the project. 

Inspired by the wonderful job that the community has done with the Karituwhenua Stream, Nicky is keen, as a first step, to gather the neighbours bordering the Mangarau Stream together to see what can be done.  “There is a lot that we can do if we work together as a community, and hopefully the councils can support us with equipment and expertise, when some parts of the job are too challenging.” 

Additionally, Nicky is hopeful that the community can come together around all of the streams that are tributaries to the Karamū.  “There’s such great stuff going on in the region, I am super excited to be able to make a contribution.”

If you’re interested in being kept up to date on plans and prospective get-togethers, please e-mail:- nickysolomon@outlook.co.nz or join the Facebook page:- https://www.facebook.com/groups/570134233966591

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