Living Local #1 – our first
On a warm spring evening on 4 November 2020, 42 Māngere Bridge residents gathered at The Barn at Ambury Regional Farm Park keen to learn more about their community.
Friends of the Farm (FoF) facilitator Jane Gravestock welcomed everyone and talked about FoF’s caring connected wastewise vison for Māngere Bridge, highlighting various its activities.
Jane then introduced the first speaker Fraser Alaalatoa-Dale from the Māngere Mountain Education Centre (MMEC) who talked about our maunga and Centre’s work. Volcanic eruptions happened around 70,000 years ago forming the current craters. Originally the maunga had a large pā that housed up to 3000 people during a 300-year occupation. Later the site became a quarry and in the 1980s used by the Manukau Works Depot.
“Learning is what we’re are all about,” said Fraser. “We have three guides who provide guided hikoi on the maunga. A half-day tour can focus on Māori history or archaeology and include the hikoi, kai and a workshop on either flax work, gardening, Māori medicine, or poi and kite making, as well as a walk around the traditional gardens. Several years ago, the MMEC relocated one of cottages of prominent Māori leader King Tāwhiao to the site, where it is now open for visitors. As a community facility, the MMEC can be hired for special events or birthday parties.
Fraser’s informative talk and friendly manner set a convivial tone for the evening. Next up, was an “Icebreaker”. Jane asked everyone to figure out who were the most recent arrivals and the longest residents. People jumped up and met other locals, jostling to find their place on the imaginary timeline Jane had marked out. It was fun hearing how long people had lived in the area, with residency ranging from six months to 50 plus years.
Watercare Environmental Scientist Liam Templeton then introduced the idea of a Circular Economy that can produce, use, then reuse water in an environmentally friendly and less wasteful manner. “It’s time we were all aware of the true value of water and became more ‘water literate’,” he said, advocating for better understanding of the implications and costs of water usage. “We drink the same water that the dinosaurs drank,” he quipped, “and in London water you drink has been recycled through eight users!”
Watercare has a comprehensive plan to make its site more efficient by generating energy through biogas and solar panels. Several pilot schemes underway produce useable material from waste, high in phosphorus and nitrogen, and could be used as fertiliser. “Treated waste water is used in countries like Singapore, Australia and Namibia,” said Liam “and in 20 years we may look back and think it was crazy to use fresh water in toilets and on gardens.” Work on Puketutu Island will eventually fill the existing quarry and create the biggest regional park in Auckland. Ambury Farm Rangers are working with Watercare to reduce pests and help return the habitat to its natural state. Liam advised the coastal walkway is temporarily closed to allow for drainage work and will reopen in June 2021. Participants from local schools and kindergarten thanked Watercare staff for providing resources for children.
The next speaker was Val Payne, chair of Mangere Bridge Residents and Ratepayers Association (MBR&RA). She explained the Association was established decades ago to challenge Watercare about the impacts of the treatment plant on the harbour and on local residents. Today MBR&RA also works with Auckland Transport, Auckland Council, the Local Board and MB Business Association to deal with lighting, access, footpath and similar problems on behalf of locals. It meets on the second Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm in the St James Church Hall. All are welcome and the annual sub is $5.00 per year.
Jane invited representatives of local groups to talk about what they do. The groups were: Ambury Park Centre; Māngere Bridge Kindergarten; Waterlea Primary School; Māngere Bridge Vipers Netball; Māngere Historic Society; Māngere Bridge Walking Group; Auckland Chinese Community Centre; Māngere Boat Club; Girl Guides and Brownies; Bridge Cycles and Mangere Bridge Library.
Before leaving, people enjoyed supper and meeting locals, and spoke to representatives of groups.
Feedback on a “Gratitude Board” which asked “Why I love Mangere Bridge” produced touching insights such as: “Living next to a farm and sheep”; “A great community”; “Because all my friends live here”; “Great walks” and “The people, the maunga, the harbour, Ambury Farm.”
All up a great night with plenty of laughter. Helping people connect and learn about local groups supports them to become part of the community, and to contribute.