Massey Matters Fund award – $1000!

We recently received notification from Massey Matters that our application for funding for a mulcher/shredder for Woodside Community Garden has been successful. This is something that we have wanted for quite a while as we have lots of grass material/woody weeds that we are unable to compost efficiently. The mulcher will allow us to cut up such material into smaller chunks so that it will break down quicker. We’ve just created some new compost bays for our hot compost – see photo below. Once we get the mulcher, we will shred everything from the first bay into the second one and then once it’s breaking down more, we can move it into the third one. We are always in need of more compost than we can make with our other traditional 3 bin system.




Volunteers raise funds for garden

Members of the Riverpark Action Group (and their family members!) along with Woodside Community Garden volunteers gave up some of their free time last weekend to raise funds for the garden by running a sausage sizzle at Mitre 10 MEGA Henderson. The event was a success as we made a profit of $411.80 for the garden. We’d like to thank Mitre 10 for giving us the opportunity to participate and for providing the BBQ and gas. Thanks go to everyone who bought a sausage from us. It is very much appreciated!



Woodside Garden wins bronze!

Woodside Community Garden exhibit – friendship

Woodside Community Garden is our major ongoing project and has its own website. Recently, members of Woodside Community Garden participated in the inaugural New Zealand flower & garden show 2017 and were awarded a bronze medal for their exhibit which was designed to demonstrate the importance of friendship in community gardens. The bronze medal is shown below with team members Nicole, Jacqui and Olga to the right.

To see more images of the exhibit and read the full story, please see the garden site.

How clean is our stream?

View up the creek

Well, we would like to know as we are keen to keep an eye on the health of our local stream, the Lower Swanson Stream. The stream is located behind Woodside Road (and Woodside Reserve) and flows into the Huruhuru Creek, where it mingles with the salt water adjacent to Riverpark Reserve. The stream is very popular with local children for swimming even though it had tonnes of concrete put into it by Waitakere City Council in 2006 in a misguided attempt to make a local water hole safe when this simply wasn’t possible.

The links below tell some of the story:

New Zealand Herald

Shotcrete NZ – the contractor that carried out the work –

We managed to make contact with Shelley Hackett, who runs the Wai Care program within Auckland Council and arranged for her to show us how to test the water quality on Saturday 7 October. We expected Shelley to show up with a few bottles that we would fill and drop in somewhere…

However, we found out from Shelley that there is much more to it than this. After going through the OSH requirements, we are handed a monitoring sheet that we will complete during our session and Selina volunteered to be our record keeper for the session. The results will later be entered onto the Wai Care website. So, our group of volunteers is now the proud owner of an official Wai Care water quality testing kit! We will be carrying out the testing 4 times per year. If there has been heavy rainfall, we need to wait and do the testing 2 days later.

How do we do the testing?
Well, first you need to know what location is best. At the moment, our stream is flowing fast because there’s extra volume due to all of the rain we have had this winter. Obviously, the centre of the fast moving stream isn’t suitable. Similarly, you don’t want to sample in the very shallow muddy regions. Fortunately for us, we have an area that we can sample fairly safely where the water is deep enough but not fast flowing. This is where we used to fill up our watering cans for the garden.

We have 2 testing kits. One contains the physical tests and the other is for the biological tests. High quality water should be cool and clear. We carried out the following tests under instruction from Shelley.

Stream temperature and air temperature – The thermometer needs to be held under the water in the middle of the water column for one minute. It’s best to measure it in the same location every time. Monique agrees to be the timer as it’s important to be consistent. Shelley takes the stream temperature first, then Gilles has a go as the first thermometer is faulty.

Shelley takes the temperature

The ideal temperature is below 15 degrees Celsius. Our stream temperature is 14.5 degrees Celsius so we’re happy with that. The next thing is the air temperature. For this, the thermometer should be placed away from direct sunlight for one minute. Monique takes over the role of timing as this is critical for the testing to be consistent.

Dissolved oxygen – the sample container should be rinsed out with the stream water first and then filled up to the correct line. Then a glass ampoule is placed into the container and broken. The stream water then enters the ampoule and fills it. Now we have to agitate the ampoule for 30 seconds and then wait for 2 minutes. Then it’s time to compare the colour and intensity of our ampoule with the supplied colour chart. Not as easy as it looks but we manage it and our value is…9!

Checking out the dissolved oxygen level

To check how clean the stream water is, there are 3 different tests; pH (alkalinity/acidity), phosphate (e.g. fertiliser contamination), nitrites/nitrates (indicates presence of sewerage).

pH test – We have concrete in our creek thanks to Waitakere City Council so we might expect the water to be more alkaline. Run off from roads results in water becoming more acidic. The average should be between 6-8.5. Shelley tells us that we should call the Pollution Hotline if we measure values outside this range. We should also take photos of the location. The dip stick is easy to use and we just need to compare the coloured swatches on the box with our test strip. Our result is pH 7; we’re happy with that!

Phosphate test – First we rinse the two vials with the stream water (this can be done with water collected in a bucket). The vials should be filled to the 5 ml line and need to be the same. One is the control sample (won’t have reagents added to it). The other one gets 7 drops of Reagent A (sulphuric acid base) and is mixed. Then 1 drop of the more viscous Reagent B (also has a sulphuric acid base) is added. The two vials are then compared on top of a colour chart. Our phosphate level is very low, 0.025 so this is good news.

Nitrites/nitrates – For this test, we have a dip stick with patches on it that change colour. The dip stick is dipped into the bucket of water for just one second. We wait 30 seconds and read the nitrite colour. For the nitrates, we wait 60 seconds. Unfortunately there seems initially to be a problem with our dip sticks but Shelley thinks it’s fine so we have a reading of 0.075 for nitrites and 0.5 for nitrates.

Clarity test – this is the really fun part and tests our volunteers eyesight as well. A glass cylinder is filled up with the stream water. Inside the cylinder is a magnet. Another magnet (wand) is used to draw the other magnet along the cylinder towards the top (where the bubble is) while someone looks through. The point at which the magnet disappears from sight is the measurement. Selina, Monique, Nicole and Gilles all take a turn and we get measurements of 62, 60, 63 and 66 making the average 62.5. This value measures how far animals can see in the water, i.e. the degree of clarity/turbidity. The highest value you can get is 95 and the average is 40-60. Less than 30 is not good and should be reported. We’re comfortable with being at the top end of the average for now. Our main challenge with this one is making sure we don’t lose the magnet; Shelley advises us to pour the water out into a bucket before tipping it back into the stream, seems like a good idea.

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The last part of the testing is to evaluate which creatures inhabit our stream, i.e. look for presence or absence. In our case, it’s difficult to access the stream banks and we don’t have rocks, logs that we can access for sampling under which some of the “green” species would inhabit. Shelley goes on the hunt for likely habitats with a large net while we have a look at the photos of the animals we’ll be looking for. Ideally, we’ll have a mix of the green (high sensitivity), orange and red (low sensitivity) classified creatures but today we only have orange and red.

Our collection includes¬† shrimp, beetle, amphipods, midge, damselfly, cranefly, flatworm snails., Shelley tells us not to be discouraged as it’s probably just a matter of not being able to access their habitats. How can we create habitats that we can access for sampling without blocking up the stream with logs…? We’ll have to think about this one. Shelley offers to come back once a year to help us with this as it’s quite hard for our untrained eyes to identify these critters.

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Keep NZ Beautiful -we’re cleaning up our community!

Gilles, Monique and Nicole with some of the collected rubbish

We had a very rough start to our Keep NZ Beautiful clean-up day yesterday with thunder and lightning coming just at the time we were scheduled to meet at the Lincoln Scout Hall. Interestingly, one of the hazards mentioned in the safety checklist was thunderstorms…along with earthquakes. So, as the hard core of Riverpark Action Group members huddled under the small verandah of the Scout Hall, we were reasonably confident that we were unlikely to get a large number of volunteers. We were trying to decide whether to go ahead or not when Gilles arrived, one of the regular Woodside Garden volunteers. The problem was, do we go ahead and get drenched to the skin or…do we postpone? Since we were already there and the rain was looking like it might ease up, we decided to go and brave the elements and get started with the proviso that if the thunder and lightning returned, we might finish early. With 7 keen volunteers, we thought we could definitely make a difference. You can see the ominous dark sky behind Monique and Nicole in the photo below.

Our aim was to clean up the rubbish in the culvert that runs into the Huruhuru Creek (including one of our famous trolleys) and the area on the Sunline Avenue side of the footbridge as well as the creek banks in the same area. Since the area we were cleaning up ticked almost all of the hazard boxes, namely rough, slippery, steep sloping areas with holes, fallen branches, many trip hazards and deep murky and moving water, we talked about how to make sure we stayed safe. No one wanted to fall into the murky muddy water although we were lucky that it was low tide so we were able to venture out a little and pick up some of the rubbish in the mud below the footbridge. We were equipped with our garden rakes and other tools from the Woodside Community Garden so that we could pull stuff up out of the bushes without having to go too close to the edge.

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We managed to collect 10 bags of rubbish and 8 bags of recycling along with a shopping trolley, canvas seat, fan, speaker (plus a cardboard box which had contained new speakers!) and some spouting. Other significant finds included a velvet ring box (no ring inside which was a bit disappointing for Lois) plus 3 large rubbish bins. One of the bins was still intact so we’ve taken that down to the community garden where we can make use of it. We took photos of a TV and bicycle that were in the deeper reaches of the creek so that we could send them to Auckland Council.

The photo below shows the final haul of rubbish that we picked up.

Our final haul = 10 bags of rubbish, 8 bags of recycling and a few other items

With all of this rubbish, it was going to be difficult to get all of it up to the Waitakere Refuse and Recycling Centre as per the instructions from David of Auckland Council. Several trips would be required as we only had 3 ordinary cars onsite, one of which was a very small hatchback. Fortunately, John Riddell, from the Massey Birdwood Settlers Association (and Keep NZ Beautiful) offered to take it for us as he had hired a ute for the day. We are very grateful to John for helping us out with this. Not sure how we would have got the trolley in any of our cars! Thanks John!


Supermarket trolleys polluting our creek…

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For several years now, we’ve noticed an increase in the number of supermarket trolleys that end up in the Huruhuru Creek and the nearby culvert that runs into it. Our group members regularly report them to the local supermarkets on Lincoln Road Henderson (Countdown and Pak ‘N’ Save) as well as to Auckland Council. We understand why people choose to take the trolleys home, e.g. they don’t have cars to transport their groceries but there’s no incentive to return the trolleys so they are left on the street. Often these trolleys are then pushed into the creek before the supermarkets get around to picking them up. Once in the Huruhuru Creek, they can easily be dragged into deeper water as the creek is tidal and surrounded by mangroves. The job of retrieving them then becomes very difficult.

We would like to see some action from the supermarkets to encourage people to return the trolleys, for example a coin deposit ($1 or $2) which is required to release a trolley from the rack and is then returned when the trolley is taken back to the store. The trolleys are valuable and surely it’s better that they are returned rather than being left on the street and then polluting the water ways. Sometimes they cause obstructions, which result in the formation of dams as other plant material and debris piles up behind them.

We contacted the Western Leader to see if they had any interest in publicising the problem and were delighted that they were keen to do a story on the problem. This issue is not unique to our area as we’ve heard from people living in other areas, e.g. Northcote, that the same thing is happening there.

Read the story written by Danielle Clent from the Western Leader…

It would be lovely to look out from the seat at Prior’s Landing and not see any trolleys…

View of the Huruhuru Creek from Prior’s Landing

Join us on Sept 16 to Keep NZ Beautiful…!

We are participating in the Keep New Zealand Beautiful Clean Up Week 2017 next Saturday September 16 from 10am -12pm. Sadly, there’s always rubbish along the side of the Huruhuru Creek where people seem to think it’s OK to dump their rubbish as well as the usual people who just drop their chip packets, etc. So, we will be picking up rubbish along the side of the creek in the Riverpark Reserve and on the other side of the Sunline bridge as well as taking photos of larger items to send to Auckland Council for retrieval. Volunteers from our community planted this area in 2013¬† supported by Auckland Council and the plants are thriving.

If you feel like coming along, we’ll be meeting at the Lincoln Scout Hall, in Bittern Place (Riverpark Reserve) at 10am. Email us with your mobile number at if you want us to send you a reminder!