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Thursday, April 25, 2013

What's happening on Maungawhau / Mt Eden

FoM newsletter by Kit Howden

The Friends of Maungawhau have three main objectives: volunteering to remove weeds and establish native vegetation in the old Batger Quarry and surrounds; public education; and advocacy on the significance of volcanic cones and green public spaces.


Volunteers continue to gather each Tuesday morning, weeding and gradually changing the face of the southern and western slopes of Maungawhau, as well as other areas in the neighbourhood. If interested, join up to the "Workers List" and read Jean's weekly reports covering the humour, stories, issues and challenges we face.

Recently we've had great support from Mary Stewart, biosecurity officer in the council, helping clear the southern boundary .

Keith, Mary, Chantal, Keith, Jean, Robyn, Dorothy and Kit
on Tuesday 23 April 2013
A big thank-you to people who helped water plants during the driest summer in 70 years: Abha, Annis, April, Brenda, Dorothy, Geoffrey, James, Jean, Jeannine, Jeremy, Keith, Mike, Rose, Sel and Valerie. Hundreds of hours of work was effective in saving plants.

We need volunteers with skills in putting together PowerPoint presentations, designing display materials, photography, writing, communications, etc. 

Please contact us if you can help
in any way.


Love Your Mountain Day will be held on Sun 8th Dec when Government House grounds will be open. This will be the last year that April leads the event, so any offers for help in the future will be appreciated.

We continue to get enquiries and comments from schools and the public regarding issues on the maunga and we try to reply to them. Unfortunately some stem from a lack of response from the council.

The renovations and restoration of the old kiosk to make it earthquake-proof are nearing completion. The Tāmaki Hikoi guides will be based there again and the FoM are hoping we too can return to use this as our base.

Recent news in the press:
Snail-pace action on volcanoes by Brian Rudman
Plan puts volcano views at risk by Mathew Dearnaley
Parks rangers' morale rocked by shake-up by Wayne Thompson
Council votes to guard more volcano views by Mathew Dearnaley
Volcanic views an Auckland right by Brian Rudman

Ecological report
Following a grant from the ASB Community Trust, an ecologist has prepared an ecological report for us. It is due for completion this month. In addition, we're preparing a history of our involvement on the maunga and reviewing our future as volunteers. Hopefully this will be a published booklet.


Keeping up with the co-governance issues over the Treaty settlement:
The volcanic cones including Maungawhau will be transferred to a Maunga Authority once the legislation passes through Parliament later this year. The bill has yet to be presented to parliament. The council will continue to manage the day-to-day operations and this may develop into a co-management relationship with iwi and the community. However, in our view this is not developing very well as illustrated by the difficulties with our MoU and the Rangers Report. (see below)

Our MOU with Auckland Council:
Under a spirit of co-management the FoM negotiated a memorandum of understanding with the council. However, it has failed to be implemented with many questions left unanswered and a lack of direction given to our volunteer operations. In addition the Stakeholders Group has not meet this year.

Auckland Grammar School:
Auckland Grammar School has steep areas covered in environmental weeds that drift onto Maungawhau. Our volunteers have worked to remove the weeds. We are hopeful that the school will become more involved through their environmental committee.

Using the Public Information Act:
We have had to resort to using the PIA to get reports that affect volunteer work and to find out what is happening on the volcanic cones. At present we need the council survey of weeds in areas that FoM volunteers work in and the consultants' review of the ranger service in the Auckland Council. (Through our submissions, a recommendation for a ranger service for the volcanic cones was mentioned in the Royal Commission's report on the Super City for Auckland - this is an on-going issue to get better practical and cost-effective management.)

Parks section of Council under pressure:
FoM have been well received by manager Mace Ward and senior staff, and soon a senior management may be appointed to oversee all the volcanic cones under Treaty settlement. Mace has also been receptive to FoM reports illustrating the poor use of ratepayer funds in some operations such as the failure of the kikuyu-to-native plant conversion system. We suspect present staff are under great pressure and some poor decisions are being made. This is why FoM have long called for professional on-the-ground rangers to coordinate the many contractors, consultants, staff, volunteers and operations to ensure the best use is made of ratepayers' dollars in the care of the maunga.

Unitary Plan and SEAs:
The Friends have been involved mainly to get the boundaries of the significant ecological area (SEA) on Maungawhau extended to the whole boundary of the reserve. The zoning and unitary plan for the volcanic cones are reasonable except for the view shafts to prevent large buildings screening out the cones. The building out of access to the cones with buildings going right up against the boundaries is also an issue. This needs greater attention under the urban design rules which we understand are still in draft form. In addition the Friends continue to advocate for an overall Open Space Strategy to ensure there is a high level vision and direction for green parks and open space in a more crowded city.
A public meeting organised by local residents will be held on Tuesday 30 April. More information on their website.

EDS Unitary Plan workshop:
Some of us attended the workshop on environmental aspects of the UP, organised by the Environmental Defence Society on 20 April. All of the presentations can be viewed on the EDS website.
Some comments by presenters and commentators relevant to Maungawhau are as follows:

  • We have the opportunity now to give feedback before the draft UP goes out for formal submissions.
  • There needs to be a clearer distinction between no-go areas, such as the volcanic view shafts, and local amenities which change over time. Also, should view shafts include those to the museum and Kawau, for instance?
  • The question of how to secure open space before rezoning needs to be addressed.
  • Identification of SEAs needs to be strengthened. The out-clause of "where possible" and "where appropriate" leaves potential for urbanisation.
  • There is a split between natural and cultural landscapes which is not helpful.
  • The category "public open space" is reserved for urban areas.
  • Regional parks are separated as precincts, not overlays. What are the implications?
  • The UP is supposedly "outcome-focussed" but it is not clear how the rules are meant to fit the anticipated outcomes. No ability to think outside the square.
  • Open space strategies sit outside the UP, which will make it difficult to provide open space in the future (Sandra Coney). Residents' access to small local parks needs to be protected in the UP, and feedback is needed on where to place open space plans (Penny Hulse).
  • The Resource Management Reform Bill further limits urban tree protection. Trees can still be nominated for protection, but more likely to be successful if the tree is on your property (because the council doesn't have to investigate).

Many thanks
Kit Howden

Caring for the volcanic heritage of Auckland

Kit Howden, Chair; April Glenday, Secretary; Jean Barton, Volunteers
Friends of Maungawhau
P.O. Box 10262, Dominion Road, Auckland 1446, New Zealand
Phone 0276671059 or 6301490