Caring for our urban waterways

Recently public attention has been directed at our polluted urban waterways, in particular the Ōtākaro/Avon and Ōpawaho/Heathcote Rivers.

Social media and news media working together are powerful tools for raising awareness and drawing attention to particular issues, but that’s just the first step.

Everyone needs to take responsibility to clean up our rivers and to keep them clean– together, we can do a lot more to improve the health of our urban rivers.

We must translate this ground-swell of attention into action and go beyond clicking ‘like’ to make real changes in how we do things and inspire others to do the same. Only then will we see the health of our rivers improve.

Stormwater is the carrier of most pollutants into our rivers and streams. While councils are working hard on improving stormwater systems we need to do our part and think about the impact we have on our waterways.

The first step is not to let plastic bags, road cones, supermarket trollies and other rubbish find their way into the river. Washing cars, paint brush cleaning on tarmacked areas, dog poo, copper and zinc roofing and brake pads all contribute contaminants such as sediment, heavy metals and bacteria can be all detrimental to urban streams and these behaviours need to change.

Business and industry also play a significant role in cleaning up our city rivers. We are starting to make a real difference with businesses taking responsibility and coming on board.

Addington Brook is an important but polluted waterway which starts in an industrial area west of Matipo Street and flows mostly underground along Blenheim Road, surfacing at Hagley Park, past the netball courts and joining the Ōtākaro/Avon River near the daffodil gardens.

Espresso Car Wash Café on the Lincoln, Moorhouse, Hagley corner has installed a ‘trade-waste connection’ to ensure all car wash water goes down the sewer to the Bromley plant instead of down

Ravensdown has also taken the opportunity to include stormwater improvements as part of the redevelopment of its Hornby processing site. This includes the development of an onsite closed system and recycling of rainwater for use in industrial processes.

The zone committee and Cashmere Stream Care group have worked with landowners to rehabilitate the upper reaches of Cashmere Stream with support from council funding. The stream banks have been re-contoured to recreate meanders pools and riffles and planted natives along the margins.

Community groups like, the Avon-Ōtākaro Network, and the Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust are growing in size and influence and making real gains with the help of local volunteers at Charlesworth, Thistledown and McCormacks Reserves and South Brighton Park and well as inspiring community groups to join the annual Mother of all Clean Ups.

Why not get involved in one of these groups, come to a zone committee meeting, or simply start by washing your car on your lawn instead of the driveway.