Te Auaunga/Oakley Creek and Auckland Flooding

Reported by Sarah Woodfield and Beulah Wood, from A Rocha’s Auckland local group

A Rocha volunteers started working with Friends of Oakley Creek in 2008 as our first Auckland project for the local group.  Over the years, we have planted many trees, shrubs, grasses and flaxes along the river bank, and up some steep banks.

The flooding events in late January 2023 poured more water than ever before along the waterways in Auckland, and the water over our creek rose higher than in any previous storm (about 4 meters above normal).  While the built structures (bridges and walkways) took a lot of damage, there was relatively minimal damage to the plants and other vegetation.  Creeks such as this one are part of the stormwater management system.   They are expected to flood in this kind of situation, and the species we plant are appropriate for this environment.

Te Auaunga is about 6km long and is fed by groundwater starting at the Hillsborough Road ridge, travelling westwards across the Auckland isthmus, and its catchment is 40% roads and buildings.  While it has flooded in previous storms, this was particularly spectacular. In one case, the water broke some young trees, and carried a 4-metre bridge balustrade that detached from its moorings over the top of the next bridge before dropping it on the opposite bank. In another area the bridge came away from the bank, but as it was chained to its support, there wasn’t any further damage, and it should be an easier job to re-establish the crossing.

We from A Rocha feel grateful that much of our planting survived, and certainly contributed to maintaining the structural integrity of the stream banks. We believe we are doing work God would have us do, minding the place God gave to humans to live in.

Unfortunately, with the loss of or damage to a number of the bridges, trees down, slips / slumps and logs across the path, Auckland Council has officially closed the walkway in the lower catchment until further notice.

In the grassy foreground of this shot, look carefully and note the recently planted young saplings which withstood, thankfully, the rush of water across the grass. Across the stream, earlier planted trees and a cabbage tree held strong and perhaps held the bank together.

This shows steps down to the stream and, in the upper centre of the shot, a detached bridge. The far side of the stream is where A Rocha volunteers first started planting in 2008.  Some trees fell but many stood strong, appearing to help hold the bank.

This shows one of the bridges, damaged, but held by a chain to stop it washing away and doing more damage (likely a design feature in expectation of flooding events).  To the left of the bridge is the 2008 A Rocha  planting showing vegetation bowed but still intact.