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Standing where pristine spring waters are polluted by milk-white liquid from a culvert that flows into Van Damme's Lagoon, Carol Over is angry.

"This is a place of history, a wonderful place with so much behind it, and now it's turning into this," says Mrs Over.

A Mt Wellington resident of 40 years, Mrs Over hadn't visited the secluded nature reserve in a long time. When she did, she was shocked.

The stormwater drain ends where it meets a natural spring and both flow into the lagoon. The flow continues into Panmure Basin. Although there is graffiti and rubbish, Mrs Overs says that's not the most pressing issue.

"This is much worse. Just two years ago the water was clean. Now it's like someone has poured some white paint down the drain somewhere further up the line.

"At first I thought it was just because the rain had flushed everything out. I came back a few days later and it was still the same. The spring doesn't have a hope in hell of diluting the pollution enough to make a difference."

On the worst days, the birds disappear, Mrs Over says. "We went for a walk and there were no ducks or anything around."

The culvert channels stormwater from as far as Onehunga and tracing the source of any pollution is difficult.

Tamaki Community Board chairwoman Kate Sutton says the board shares the community's concern. "It has been raised a couple of times in the past but that was more for the rubbish down here," she says. "This time, it is for water quality."

Ms Sutton says more will be done to identify the culprits and fix the situation once Metrowater has tested the contaminated water.

"We are going to do something to clear up down there, but we won't know what exactly until our tests come back. If they can pinpoint the type of pollution that's coming out we will be able to find out where exactly it is coming from."

It's not the first problem here. In August 2005, there was a major wildlife and pollution scare when demolition contractors accidentally damaged an old transformer. An estimated 300 litres of oil was discharged into a stormwater drain and into the lagoon. Over the next four days the ARC Pollution Response team removed the oil. Approximately 20,000 litres of oily water was removed.

Metrowater, which is responsible for water quality in the area, says it carries out weekly maintenance. More will be done to clear up the area.

"Water quality samples will also be taken for further analysis," says a spokesperson. "Both pond forebays were cleaned of sediment four weeks ago. A specialist has been engaged to carry out a survey to look at the sediment in the lagoon so that it can be removed from targeted areas."

Metrowater says installing a filter to stop the pollution would not be practical.

"Controlling the pollution at its source is the preferred option. Any filtration device would have maintenance implications and operational costs. It would only be efficient in a limited capacity - it would be completely dependent on the type of pollutant."

Hard to find, worth a look

Van Damme's Lagoon is easy to overlook. Itss a body of flowing water dammed to form a lagoon near Panmure Basin, just off Mt Wellington Highway.

Historically, it provided water for the steam engines and boilers of the Ireland brothers' tannery, established in the mid-1800s between Panmure Basin and the lagoon. Early in the 1870s, the tannery processed 90 per cent of the Auckland province's leather, sold to local and export markets.

Mr Van Damme bought the property in the 1930s and transformed it into a beauty spot by landscaping and planting the banks, stocking ponds with goldfish and carp, and attracting ducks and other waterbirds. He grew water lilies in the lagoon and harvested them for market.

A large industrial corporation later bought the property, neglected it and used it as a rubbish dump. The local council bought the site in 1975 to restore it as a nature reserve.

Auckland City has eradicated weeds and planted native species. It hasn't been all plain sailing: 2005 Tamaki Community Board minutes record complaints about its "unkempt" appearance and requests for council clean-up work. www.forestandbird.co.nz