Uncertainty still looms over the repairs and restoration of damaged parks, reserves and boardwalks on Auckland’s North Shore, almost a year on from the devastation of Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland Anniversary floods.
The summer storms last year saw more than 300 instances of damage to parks, reserves and walkways across the Auckland region. Auckland Council said the estimated damage to assets and facilities was between $40 and $55 million.
On the North Shore, four reserves remain completely closed, and about 30 tracks are fully or partially closed across Devonport, Takapuna, Kaipātiki, East Coast Bays and the Hibiscus Coast.
Conservation groups on the North Shore were concerned Auckland may not be able to afford to fully restore the assets, and that there were ongoing environmental consequences.
Kaipātiki Project regeneration team leader Derek Craig said he was especially worried about the loss of boardwalks that were installed for protection from Kauri dieback.
“Essentially five years’ worth of very expensive track work is being completely undone, all the gravel tracks have either been washed out so there’s nothing but base, or they’re covered in mud.”
Craig said the parts of the walkways that had been buried under debris or covered in mud were unusable due to the risk of Kauri dieback.
He said the damaged boardwalks in Eskdale Reserve and Le Roy’s Bush could cost millions to replace.
“We were two-thirds of the way through the local reserve, Eskdale Reserve, and if they had to go back and restart several years of work from scratch, it’s not gonna happen under budget cuts,” he said.
Forest and Bird volunteer Richard Hursthouse shared these concerns.
“There has been devastation of tracks, bridges, boardwalks, structures, and my concern with that is that that’s gonna soak up a huge amount of money,” he said.
“Prioritising repairs on these structures is very difficult, especially when the budget is tight.”
Meanwhile, Hursthouse said there were other important areas of conservation that required prioritisation, particularly after the weather events last summer — such as making streams more resilient, predator control and better storm water systems.
He said the summer storms had accelerated erosion and choked up streams, resulting in the loss of habitat for bugs and fish.
Craig from the Kaipātiki Project also said the ongoing impact of soil clogging up streams was killing habitats for rare freshwater species like the giant kōkopu and kākahi.
He said he was worried about upcoming budget cuts to parks and conservation which will have big ramifications for the environment and for community organisations like theirs that are doing important work in restoration.
Auckland Council head of operations for parks and community facilities Julie Pickering said many of the park and reserve restoration projects were still waiting for geotechnical advice before decisions could be made.
She said it could take another year for key decisions on some of those assets.
Pickering said in terms of parks, reserves and walkways in urban North Shore, 35 projects had been completed, but 42 were still works in progress. She said the wet weather last year delayed some of the work.
“Since those two major weather events, we’ve had so much wet weather, the water table in the ground is already full, the constant wet weather we’ve had for the past nine months hasn’t helped either… When we get those short bursts of really heavy rain, we’re ending up with minor flooding as well, which perhaps we may not have seen in previous years.”
Pickering said in the North Shore, it was estimated repairs to fix storm-damaged assets in parks and reserves will cost about $6.49 million. She said decisions on repair options or whether or not to restore a facility will be discussed with the local boards.
“There certainly are budget constraints… and I guess until we have the technical information, we won’t be able to make those decisions.”
By Lucy Xia of rnz.co.nz