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Young Reporters for the Environment: 

Restoring Mill Stream, a tributary of the Mahurangi River

As sisters in Years 8 and 9 who have recently moved from suburbia to a lifestyle block, we’re even more appreciative and passionate about protecting and improving our environment. We don’t want trees to be cut down, our water to be contaminated, or our environment to become polluted.

So, we were really keen to get super involved in the local community by learning about local issues and helping through voluntary community work. We thought about what we wanted to change, or improve, to make our community and beautiful environment even better.

We did some research and, through an article in the Rodney Times, 21 March 2018, we were excited to discover an incredible project taking place literally on our doorstep in our wonderful community, Warkworth!

The local issue is improving the water quality of Hepburn Creek which flows into the Mahurangi River which connects to the Hauraki Gulf. The water quality of Mill Stream joining Hepburn Creek apparently needs improving which will ‘enhance the habitat for native species’, Rodney Times.

Further reading revealed an organisation called ‘Million Metres Streams’ are working with the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust and Auckland Council to address the local issue. Their spokesperson, Alaina Pomeroy, explained (and quoted in the Rodney Times) that the problem is the stream is the natural habitat for several native species some of which are rare and ‘at risk’.

"These include long-fin eel (tuna), freshwater crayfish (koura) and freshwater mussels (kakahi)."

Additionally, in the shaded pools along Mill Stream there are banded kokopu which is also a native fish. It was absolutely clear our very local stream was very important environmentally!

We continued our research and in the publication, ‘Local Matters’ we learned that sediment and nutrients need to be prevented from entering Mill Stream in order to greatly improve both the water quality and the natural habitat of these native species which are also a food source for local residents.

Being teachers, Mum and Dad pointed us in the direction of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and that of ‘Life Below Water’ which is to:

‘conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development’ (www.sustainabledevelopment.un.org).

The goal is basically concerned with the fact that all over the world our coastal waters are deteriorating due to both pollution and nutrients running off the land and killing many marine species.

Gosh! Who would have thought the little stream at the bottom of our drive was part of a global issue which the United Nations are committed to resolving!

So, that’s our local issue with a global impact but what is the solution?

Apparently, to counteract the negative effects of agriculture, a solution is to reduce the sediment, or waste, and nutrients flowing into Hepburn Creek which will improve the water quality. This can be achieved by planting native plants and trees such as, manuka, kanuka and coprosma, (Local Matters, 2 July 2018).

As reported in the Rodney Times, the owner of the land which borders Mill Stream, Adam Simperingham,  believes:

"Reverting the planted area back to native bush will have an impact that lasts centuries."

So, by researching the Million Metres Streams Project website, we discovered there were two ways people could help with the Hepburn Creek Project of planting native plants and trees:

1)    Donate money to buy native plants (they currently need a further $20,000)

2)    Roll up your sleeves and help out at the Hepburn Creek planting day to revitalise our local waterways of Mill Stream and Hepburn Creek!

So, we decided the second option was the perfect project for us to help our local community and environment and immediately emailed the lovely coordinator for the Hepburn Creek project, Alaina Pomeroy. Within just two days, she replied, saying she was really grateful for our help and there was a planting day in July. We were advised to wear gumboots, gardening gloves and to bring a big shovel.

On a beautiful, sunny Sunday in July, we walked up our road, Hepburn Creek Road, to the meeting place where we received a warm greeting and were introduced to our group of ‘budding’ tree planters, all passionate about our community’s beautiful environment.

We scrubbed our gumboots with disinfectant and trekked down a narrow path for a few minutes to get to the planting site at the Creek. Hundreds of native New Zealand plants were dotted around the site, ready to be planted into the stunning scenery. We collected a small pot of fertiliser and began…

The first time we energetically plunged our massive shovels into the ground, they went in about one centimetre before stopping abruptly in the extremely solid ground. After a lot of jumping on our shovels, we managed to successfully plant our first trees! It was so rewarding to have finally begun helping out with something that might just make the world a better place.

By the end of the day, we were shattered! The planting had gotten easier throughout the day and we had discovered how to conquer jumping up and down on our shovels without looking like complete fools! Between the two of us, it felt like we had planted way over 100 native plants and indeed the whole group planted over 1,000 plants and trees. Morning tea and lunch had never been so delicious…

Overall, it was intense work, but we are so thrilled that we made the effort to participate, meet our neighbours and contribute to a local environmental community project – and had an awe-inspiring experience.

Adam Simperingham, owner of the land and farm said:

"The trees planted this year will almost immediately improve the water quality and will enhance the habitat for native species. (stuff.co.nz)

To know you’ve helped make a difference to your local environment is so rewarding. There are heaps more projects like this being executed in New Zealand and we highly recommend it to everyone.  If lots more people contribute their help and expertise to New Zealand’s environment, then we will enjoy a rich, diverse and healthy environment. And of course, help out the United Nations…

Izzy Plummer & Pippa Plummer

Links:

Million Metres

Hepburn Creek Project

https://millionmetres.org.nz/open-project/restoring-mill-stream-a-tributary-of-the-mahurangi-river/

https://www.localmatters.co.nz/news/25568-boost-river-restorataion.html

Community volunteers at the planting site.

Evidence:

Emails that show us arranging to go to the planting day.