Living roof to return the mauri to Auckland Central

By James Perry

More than 2000 plants have been planted on the roof of the Auckland Central library in the CBD, creating the first "green roof" in the City of Sails.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei propagated many of the native plants, including oioi, tātaraheke and rengarenga at its nursery near downtown Auckland, and this morning blessed the initiative.

The living roof is expected to improve stormwater runoff from the library. The library had undergone urgent, essential repairs to the roof due to leaks damaging many books. 

Ngāti Whātua spokesperson Etienne Neho says the rooftop forest will help clean the various forms of pollution in metropolitan centres.

"It's going to help with the air quality, it's going to help with the flow and water runoff for the library itself but the bigger picture is, hopefully, it will be a gateway for people and other businesses to do something similar.

"Hopefully, it's the start of many green roofs in Tāmaki Makaurau."


The 'living roof' on the Auckland Central Library is the first of it's kind in the city. Source:Auckland Council

As well as supplying the plants, Ngāti Whātua has been involved with the design of the greenspace, inspired by the whāriki design. 

“You can see a pattern known as “poutama” which represents education, progress, and ascension.

"It pays homage to the library as a place where people seek greater knowledge and understanding,”  Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei artist Hinengarangi Makoare says.

Neho adds that local mātauranga has also been included in the design and creation, including the use of plant species abundant in the area before urbanisation.

The area where the library sits is where the original Wai o Horotiu stream flowed.

"It's adding our little footprint in the heart of the city."

The plants provided by Ngāti Whātua, Neho says, were sourced from within the Tāmaki Makaurau ecological district. 

He hopes to see more buildings take on the challenge of creating green spaces in the large concrete jungle of high-rise buildings and roads.

"We're on the right track. What we'd like to see is more of the CBD as an urban ngāhere. Instead of buses and trains going up Queen Street, it would be covered with plants. 

"Looking from the side of the Library roof in five to 10 years I hope you'll see trees all along the rooftops."