Aden Miles Morunga, Local Democracy Reporter
It once harboured pristine waters that children could frolic in with their friends on a hot summer's day and where communities lived in harmony with nature.
But after years of pollution from plastic containers, tyres and trolleys, Te Puhinui (Puhinui Stream) is reduced to a desolate waterway where children no longer swim.
To turn back the hands of time and restore this tupuna awa (river ancestor), the Te Whakaoranga o Te Puhinui charter was signed between Te Waiohua iwi (Ngāti Tamaoho Waiohua, Ngāti Te Ata and Te Ākitai Waiohua), and Auckland Council.
The charter was also signed by Kāinga Ora, Eke Panuku Development Auckland, and Ōtara-Papatoetoe and Manurewa local boards, and sets out a new collaborative way of working, led by indigenous knowledge.
It aims to align and build on existing relationships and projects within the catchment and the Manukau Harbour by providing frameworks and methods that will help shift Te Puhinui from its current state.
The charter also outlines a roadmap for action and seeks to draw on existing knowledge about the catchment and the geological, ecological and cultural threads that underpin the whakapapa relationships of each Te Waiohua iwi, to deliver improved social, cultural, environmental and economic outcomes.
Te Ākitai Waiohua chair Karen Wilson is humbled by the opportunity to develop the charter.
"For us this is an important step towards realising our own tino rangatiratanga and being able to protect and look after our places and people and carry out our manaaki and kaitiaki responsibilities which we have been fighting to be able to do for over 200 years.
"It has truly been a collective effort to get to this point. The support from the wider mana whenua rōpū and their endorsement of us leading this mahi has allowed the Waiohua iwi to come together as a collective, strengthening those hononga [relationships] to collaborate on this document."
A charter agreement between Te Waiohua iwi, Auckland Council, Ōtara-Papatoetoe and Manurewa local boards, Kāinga Ora was collaborated on to restore Puhinui Stream. Photo: Eke Panuku Development Auckland via LDR
The 12km waterway runs from the Botanical Gardens through many south Auckland suburbs into the Manukau Harbour.
The charter is also supported by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff who is pleased to see the restoration of Puhinui Stream.
"I played in this stream as a kid but after years of it being a dumping ground for rubbish and suffering from pollution, nobody would wish to play in it today," he said.
"It's great to be entering into a partnership between council, mana whenua, and other stakeholders to work together to restore and manage Te Puhinui as an important natural asset for the people who live around it."
Empowered Communities Lead Alexanda Whitcombe is overseeing the project, and said the wellbeing of the people would be revitalised through the healing of the natural environment.
"My passion and drive as a kai manaaki and carer of Te Puhinui and seeing it back at its full potential, is to see a te ao Māori worldview realised and reflected in our urban cities," he said.
"The health and wellbeing of the people will be revitalised through the revitalisation of the natural environment. To be in balance and harmony with the natural and Māori spiritual world while navigating life in an urban city will be powerful."
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air