Environmental Warriors

This past term, one of our school’s Year 10 Science Extension classes has been working on action plans to raise awareness and help the health of Wairau Creek. One of the groups decided that as their action, they would send an email to Simon Watts, the MP of the North Shore, to raise awareness about the health of the water and how it affects the local community (which can be read below). Another part of this group’s action plan was to create posters, which you may have seen around the school grounds. Other actions have included bake sales to raise money for tree planting projects near the creek, creating informative posters, and writing articles in local newspapers such as the Rangitoto Observer. It has been incredible to see the tenacity and mahi of these groups as they learn how to make meaningful contributions to the local community while learning important skills such as collaboration and cooperation.

To whom it will concern,

“Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au.”

I am the river, and the river is me.

It’s a simple truth, yet we ignore it at our own peril. Without water, there is no life. There is no us.

Wairau Creek is a body of water that drains the Wairau area and flows into Milford Beach where, from an estuary at the northern end, it discharges into the Hauraki Gulf. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the beach all year round, with it being a popular location for swimming during the summer seasons. This means that the health of the Wairau Creek can, and does, directly impact the health of the water on the beach. As well as affecting the water on this beach, it can also affect the organisms that interact with it, including the people who go to Milford Beach, their safety, and their wellbeing. The continuity of the community’s interest in connecting with the area and the water is not the problem; the problem is the inaction that continues to force the community into a state of ignorance. It is unfair that such a tight-knit community takes pride in contaminated water—water they let their children play in and that they walk along in the summer.

We are a group of students who attend Westlake Girls’ High School and are writing to express our dissatisfaction with the inaction that is being taken towards restoring Wairau Creek and preserving it for future generations. In our science class, we have been investigating the health of Wairau Creek, and the results are concerning. Results from a test conducted using a Watercare guideline on a water sample from near the beach revealed that there are approximately 50–90 milligrammes per litre of nitrates in the water, indicating that there is a high amount of pollution in the water. Our tests on turbidity confirmed this, with the current turbidity of the area revealing that large amounts of pollution are present. What was most distressing was what we found in our Water Life Lab. Tests conducted found a singular rat-tailed maggot, a species with a sensitivity score of one. The sensitivity score of a species helps us determine its sensitivity to negatively altered conditions and polluted waters. The higher the sensitivity score, the more sensitive the species is, and the lower the score, the less sensitive it is. As no other species were found and the sensitivity of this species was incredibly unique, it is more than safe to assume that species adapted to withstanding clean, green, and serene waters are unable to withstand conditions that human activity has forced upon the creek. When considering that many interact with this water, it is unacceptable that no efforts are being made to change the hydrology and the state of the water in this area. However, we need to do something about it. We are here to say that the state of the water must change, and we must take action now for the rangatahi and future generations.

And so we have. As a science class, we have split into groups to take a plethora of actions to initiate the restoration and preservation of what was once a haven for some of the most unique life in Aotearoa. Our actions are mighty, but mighty is not enough. We need your help. The incredible species that call this creek home need your help. The elders who walk along the shore need your help. The children who play and laugh in this contaminated water need your help. The next generation, whose lives are already being threatened by the continuous degradation of natural resources as a result of global warming and human activity, needs your help. The truth is simple: if you want to play the waiting game, you’ve already lost.

We urge you to take action to start the process of helping to restore Wairau Creek, taking further tests to determine the level of pollution and health risks in this water, and informing the local community of this.

Your help would not only mean empowerment of Wairau Creek and the biodiversity of the area, but for all of the incredible native species across Te Motu and communities that have created significant connections to the water. Change will not come if no effort is made to begin. Change begins here.

Kind Regards,

Westlake Girls’ High School students.