Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Waka race wins mangrove clearance

The waka-ama regatta was cancelled due to mangrove-clogged waterways. Photo / Dean Purcell
The waka-ama regatta was cancelled due to mangrove-clogged waterways. Photo / Dean Purcell

A heritage water sports event which faced cancellation because of mangrove-clogged waterways has won a last-minute reprieve from Auckland Council.

Resource consent was granted yesterday for volunteer workers to clear a path through mangroves which have overgrown a traditional launch point for the Portage Crossing event.

This waka ama regatta uses the old Maori and European portage over a narrow strip of land at Otahuhu to travel between the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours.

Council rules allow people to pull out seedlings without a consent where they spread outside specified nature zones.

"But since the last event, these mangroves have become like a jungle," said race founder James Papali'i.

He said the biannual event had faced cancellation. This would have been disappointing because it was a "one of a kind" event in its 20th year and had drawn international teams.

The crossing festival was a piece of Auckland's heritage that should be passed on to future generations.

It is understood the consent was supported by Mayor Len Brown and the Maungakiekie-Tamaki and Otahuhu-Mangere Local Boards.

It was applied for on January 16 after the Manukau Harbour Restoration Society got wind of the obstacle to the race, which starts at Okahu Bay, goes down the Tamaki Estuary and on to the Waterfront Reserve, Mangere Bridge.

Waka are put on trolleys and pushed by paddlers 5km via Portage Rd, Otahuhu to Sales Yard Rd, then placed in the Mangere Inlet and raced a further 7km up the harbour and back to Mangere Bridge.

Restoration society chairman Jim Jackson said voluntary labour would be needed to remove mangroves which had grown up to 3m high to strangle the waka launching site near the Otahuhu Railway Workshops.

"We will get removal advice from the experienced Waiuku Mudlarks who know how to stack the mangroves for collection and fit 'Muddies' to their boots to stop removal staff sinking into the soft mud."

The Living Earth composting company would take the plants without charging dump fees. At the landing, a 4WD would winch mangroves ashore.

"I hope this is the start of better outcomes for the groups who are getting people out on this harbour and caring for it."

- NZ Herald

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