The Pollinator Pathway in Hakanoa Reserve

October 2, 2016 by  
Filed under Blog

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Eight months ago a post graduate student in landscape architecture Andrea Reid approached the Waitemata Local Board to discuss her Pollinator Pathways university assignment. The general premise of the proposal identified the massive loss of habitat for pollinators such as bees, insects, lizards and birds in urban areas due to the reduction in habitats in the built environment and diseases that have ravished bee colonies. The concept was to reintroduce habitats into the urban landscape. The original concept designs from her university portfolio are quite spectacular and there are many concepts yet to be realised for Auckland.

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Andrea presented to Waitemata Local Board member Deborah Yates and me in the environmental portfolio. The original proposal was targeted in Kingsland to intersect with railway land, Auckland Transport land and a local neighbourhood. Apart from the proposal not being in our electoral ward, the proposal would have been highly complex introducing a new concept to multiple stakeholders on land designated for infrastructure. A new location had to be identified that was within control of the Waitemata Local Board’s area of influence and decision making.
Two proposed locations were recommended to Andrea; the Grey Lynn Greenway that was being built from Coxs Bay via Hakanoa Reserve to Grey Lynn Park; the second proposed location was the Auckland Domain as a feeder network for pollinators within existing reserve land. With these options on the table Andrea decided to pursue the Grey Lynn Greenway option.
With funds committed by the Waitemata Local Board to develop the in-park component of the walking and cycling corridors of the Grey Lynn Greenway this was already a live project. With the hard walking & cycling infrastructure of the corridor underway the Pollinator Pathway was a natural fit to deliver enhanced ecological connection between Coxs Bay and Grey Lynn Park.
The two draft designs looked to collaborate with private land owners of Mitre 10 to build a butterfly farm along the Westmoreland Street West western side of the berm and the Farro Fresh garden which already has an active bee hive.

Pollinator Pathway Rob Thomas Andrea Reid Mitre 10 Auckland
The owner at Mitre 10, Warren, was superb and went through all the internal management process and had Mitre 10 approved the wall to be used as a habitat for butterflies. This is, of course, now my preferred home improvement depo for all my purchases. Mitre 10 corporate where amazing. However, Auckland Transport created a barrier, requested a deposit of $1k to use the berm which was so unreasonable and against the key principles of the Greenway Concept. This concept is still very much alive with an initial design if at some point Auckland Transport can join the party.

Pollinator Pathway Andrea Reid Farro Fresh Rob Thomas Auckland
The Farro Fresh team were initially on-board with the partnership proposition but had concerns over health & safety of people walking in the carpark with new legislation coming down the pipeline. Also, the proposed Auckland Transport Greenway Route along the fence line was still under concept design and Auckland Transport could provide no clarity or certainty over the new route.
The most obvious location was to refocus on park land and in particular Hakanoa Reserve. One late evening Andrea and I walked the route looking for the ideal spot. It was clear that the V shaped junction on Sackville Street as a point of entry to the Greenway, with its existing community lending library, would be an ideal location for the first pollinator pathway. To make the future greenway connection a success there needed to be visual ques to show people the way between Coxs Bay and Grey Lynn Park and this seemed liked the ideal spot.
To deliver the project, Andrea applied to the Waitemata Local Board community grant of $7,500 which was successful. As funds need to be accountable, Andrea worked under the umbrella of Chris from the GECKO Trust New Zealand who provides support for hundreds of community led projects across Auckland. Having assisted her throughout the possess I declared my conflict of interest and allowed the other member of the Waitemata Local Board to talk and make the decision on the grant application.

A community open day was held and the project received 100% positive feedback with most saying just “get on with it”.

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Left to Right: Rob Thomas (Waitemata Local Board), Andrea Reid (Pollinator Pathways), Andrea’s Mum and Chris Ferkins (Gecko Trust) consulting in Hakanoa Reserve

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Left to Right: Deborah Yates (Waitemata Local Board), Andrea Reid (Pollinator Pathways), Jennifer Northover (Grey Lynn Business Association) and Rob Thomas (Waitemata Local Board).

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The weeks that followed Andrea pushed hard through the land owner consent process and requirements placed on her from the Council’s Parks Team. Andrea presented to a number of groups including the Grey Lynn Business Association, local schools and kept the Grey Lynn Residents Association informed of the project. A stakeholder email newsletter was compiled with regular updates on community feedback, concept design and the important volunteer day. Throughout the project there were regular meetings between Andrea, Chris and I to help with the project.
The scene was set. On Saturday 1st October 2016 after the rain had stopped and before the volunteers arrived a butterfly from the surrounding neighbourhood flew in and landed on one the swan plants. Andrea was able to capture the moment in this photo. For that moment, even if it was for less than 20 seconds, it had seemed the site had received its blessing.

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Volunteers from all over the community came to dig up the grass, plant vivid pollinator plants, lay bark and watch the release of the bumble bees.

 

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Earlier in the week builders put together a small “insect hotel” wall ready for local children to build habits for insects. Stones, sticks and sand were collected from around the neighbourhood to place in the masonry blocks for the insect habitats. A group of local kids went back home to tack river stones from their house to place in the wall with the parents not blinking an eye.

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While everyone dug up the grass, to prevent weeds, there were a number of Irish jigs being fiddled and it seemed like we were digging up potatoes or peat from the swamps. There was a great community atmosphere as people worked the land and children ran around getting face paints and rummaging through the bush to find sticks. Even the local police arrived to help.

 

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The volunteers took to planting, with children being taught how to carefully remove the bag from around the root, dipping the base into active fungal water, laying top soil and placing in the ground without air bubbles that would kill the roots.

 

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The enormous task of placing bark as the ground cover saw three wheel barrows arrive on site from neighbouring properties. Everyone was chipping in, especially the young children climbing up the mound of bark and sliding down the other side.

 

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Then came the moment everyone had been waiting for – the release of the bumble bees. The bee boxes had been securely put in place for the leaf cutting bees and the bumble bees. The night before Andrea had received the bumble bees in a cardboard box ready to be released into their new home. Despite the rain, one bumble bee emerged from the box and did its inaugural circular flight before eventually returning.

 

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The day was a huge success. Even the gorilla tactical urbanism of Waitemata Local Board Member Pippa Coom, entirely endorsed by myself, painting yellow lines to prevent cars parking on the entryway for walking and cycling along the Greenway. Feedback Auckland Transport had not responded to despite many requests. Good on you Pippa!

 

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Over the next three months local residents have been asked to help water the plants, especially the swan plants, to ensure they survive the change of season.

It’s still early days but the overwhelming support from the community shows it to have been a great success. Time will tell as the bees and insects become accustom to the space that New Zealand native lizards might find refuge in low foliage as the plants mature, and the Nikau Palms over the next 10 years provide fruit and sanctuary for birds.

The combination of Andrea’s design expertise, her dedication, vision and passion from the project was contagious. There are many good ideas but it takes a certain person to see this through to completion and bring others along with you on the journey.

The Pollinator Pathway in Hakanoa Reserve was always envisaged to be a catalyst for future project. To make pollinator paths a part of Auckland’s urban design fabric there needs to be greater buy-in from orgnisations like Auckland Transport. The Hakanoa Reserve Pollinator Pathway project shows the great depth of support that exists within our community for these types of initatives.

So, where to next!

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