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COMMENTARY: By Simon Oosterman Beckers

We tried to give away two hectares of land to help minimise flooding in West Auckland. For free. We just failed.

Let me explain.

Everyone wants a warm home, safe from flooding.

Yet thousands of Westies and their homes have been devastated by record-breaking rain during the recent Auckland floods.

Imagine there was a natural way to minimise flooding that would also create jobs and recreation, connect communities, and bring back stream and bird life.

There is. A “Greenway” is a strip of native planting, often alongside streams or floodplains, with a shared walking and cycle path.

Not only have we built them before, but our local Project Twin Streams greenways won international awards.

More greenways needed
Auckland Council wants to extend existing greenways and create more stream native corridors. But it’s a 20-year plan that needs more funding.

Location of the property between the Oratia and Kaurimu streams
Location of the property between the Oratia and Kaurimu streams. The key: Black: Property boundary; Green: Land offered to council; Blue: Floodplain; Yellow: Proposed Greenway; and Purple: Existing shared walk/cycle path. Image: SOB

For example, one of the Twin Streams greenways doesn’t connect with its namesake: Oratia.

While the council plans to join them, it would go through private land. Land owned by my family and the Oratia Bowling Club.

People looked at my family sideways when we bought a 2 ha floodplain, one of the biggest out West. But we wanted to stop the land from being developed, to protect it, and then replant it.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford the last bit, so we offered the land to the council for free last year.

Today, Auckland Council emailed to say, ironically, that due to the auckland floods they didn’t want our land anymore.

Council staff and local board members are supportive. But we all know mayor Wayne Brown has other priorities, like cutting funding to climate change programmes and our beloved Citizens Advice Bureaux.

Maybe the community?
If the council doesn’t want our stream land, maybe the community does?

The flooded Sunnyvale homes downstream from us can’t wait for another 20 years.

The community didn’t wait for Wayne Brown to clean up homes after the floods. We could use that same community cooperation to plant trees and minimise damage from the next flood.

Would you donate or plant a tree in a West Auckland floodplain?

Have you got other skills or ideas to build a greenway once the Big Clean Up is over? Are you already involved in this work and have insights or want to shout out your project?

Simon Oosterman Beckers is a climate justice advocate and the climate campaigner for the Public Service Association.

The Oosterman property floodplain after Auckland's Great Flood
The Oosterman property floodplain after Auckland’s Great Flood on 27 January 2023. Image: Simon Oosterman Beckers
Part of the property after the Auckland floods
The same spot after the Auckland floodwater levels eased off. Image: Allison Oosterman
The property in the catchment context
The property in the catchment context. See in more detail at Google.

This content originally appeared on Asia Pacific Report and was authored by APR editor.


[1] Gavin Ellis: Communication lessons from the Great Flood | Asia Pacific Report ➤[2] Auckland floods | Search Results | Asia Pacific Report ➤[3] Auckland floods | Search Results | Asia Pacific Report ➤[4][5][6]