Letter of the Week, NZ Herald, 4 November 2018

E-scooter users are having a rough time from the media and politicians alike. I’m sticking up for them.

From where I stand - in Northcote, a suburb on the verge of major re-developments – e-scooters look to me to be part of the solution, not a menace.

I see people of diverse age ranges scootering between the town centre hubs of Northcote and Takapuna, to the Sunday markets, smiling and having fun, replacing a short car trip, or connecting to public transport. I see young people hanging out in scooter groups socializing together. It’s great to see them enjoying their freedom outdoors.

When I was that age, it was the era of peak boy racer culture. ‘Socialising’ with a vehicle meant clogging up Queen Street in a souped-up Subaru.

As things change, and more and more people shift away from cars being their main mode of travel, we need better transport and city mobility options.

Yes, we need wider footpaths, and more street space for walkers, cyclists and those using low-powered vehicles. Yes, we do need people to ride e-scooters with care and obey the road user rules. Good manners can take care of the rest.

Big Boost for Environmental Initiatives on the North Shore

Local Board votes for democratic transparency on Auckland's North Shore

Letter to the Editor, North Shore Times 18 July 2017

One evening, more than a month ago, there was extraordinary flooding at Little Shoal Bay. A 60th birthday bash at the bowling club that night was interrupted when party-goers were startled to find their cars tyre-deep in sea water outside.

The question remains on many residents’ lips: how do we best mitigate flooding like this?

Perhaps some solutions depend less on modern infrastructure, and more on rethinking how we value existing natural resources.

A recent study shows that mangrove forests play a vital role in protecting coastal areas from flooding and rising seas. Scientists from the UK and New Zealand have collaborated to simulate how mangroves create a network of tidal channels which eventually raise the bed until the area is no longer inundated by the tide. Mangroves are known to quell storm surges, dissipate wave energy, and generally act as a highly effective coastal buffer.

But mangroves have a mixed reputation and their growth is often controlled. In May, NIWA released a study that shows mangrove removal rarely results in the desired outcome of a sandy beach. Further, areas where mangroves have been removed need regular maintenance to keep mangrove seeds from re-establishing - costing thousands of dollars per hectare for seedling removal and disposal.

With mangroves' proven record as a natural breakwater, is it time to re-think the cost-benefit analysis of mangrove removal when it comes to coastal areas like Little Shoal Bay?

Politician reassures public after diesel spill from North Shore Hospital

Brown Stream Prompts Protest

When a Community Screams

Open Letter: Quality of Auckland Waterways

Open Letter to the Governing Body of Auckland Council


Dear Councillors

Congratulations on your election, and having the opportunity to tackle some of the big issues facing Auckland.

If ever there was a time to cast a more careful eye on the quality of our waterways, it is now.

Auckland Council’s 2016 State of Auckland report cards released in October show the majority of local board areas received a ‘C’ grade or below for the health of their freshwater environments. This points to a big decline over the last 20 years.

The poorest quality streams tend to be those dominated by urban land, suggesting that stewardship of urban streams should be a focus for Auckland’s water quality monitoring programmes and investigations.

On the North Shore, what we are seeing are not simply polluted waterways that need to be ‘restored’ but waterways in good condition being destroyed.

Auckland Council has a crucial role to play. To begin with, Erosion and Sediment Control plans must take into account that pollution controls linked to development sites have been failing in many areas.

We need a clear policy statement on water quality, and this must be adhered to.

Fixing or protecting the waterways may also involve having better drainage around urban areas to reduce pollution from roads, roofs and pavements washed into city streams through the stormwater network.

Residents would also like to see a more proactive approach through targeted monitoring, rather than a solely reactive approach to complaints of non-compliance.

Cowboy developers are prepared to flout rules on pollution controls. All too often, the problems are being picked up solely thanks to neighbourhood vigilance.

With the blueprint for Auckland in the form of the Unitary Plan approving 422,000 new dwellings over the next 25 years, most of us understand that handled badly, growth could lead to terrible outcomes. And yet, if the growth is handled well, with careful planning and strong oversight of new developments, we will feel closer to the vision of a beautiful Auckland known for its ecological gems right in the heart of a rapidly growing city.

Politicians are elected to ensure the voice of the public is heard and to act as stewards of inter-generational justice. And protection of our unique natural environment is a matter of inter-generational justice.

Mayor Phil Goff made a pledge to protect our ‘beautiful natural environment, framed by our spectacular coastline, harbours, our maunga, islands and regional parks. Those are the assets that must be sustained and protected for generations to come’.

I can guarantee that protecting our waterways will have a more long-term impact on our environment than electrifying Auckland Council’s vehicle fleet.

Yours sincerely,

Anne-Elise Smithson, Member

Kaipātiki Local Board

Board Angry After Developer Fined $300 For Potentially Polluting Stream

Letter to the Editor, North Shore Times, 12 May 2016

As someone who volunteers in water quality monitoring for urban streams on the North Shore, there’s a real delight of spotting a banded kokopu - their existence can be a sign of good stream health.

This work brings me into contact with elders in the community are like living encyclopaedia, knowing everything in the stream, and pest plants like the back of their hand.

One resident says the prognosis is depressing for the banded kokopu in one North Shore stream. He’s seen numbers decline from nearly a hundred to a handful in a few years.

With knowing wilderness comes a sense of wonder. How is it that in its quest from sea to stream, a kokopu manages the incredible feat of climbing waterfalls? Some have monitored these fish for years and have in-depth scientific understanding.

My concern is that, with each successive generation, not only do we have less species richness but less knowledge and wonder of our natural heritage. Our standards shift. How long before we congratulate ourselves on thewater quality, but don’t notice the absence of kokopu because we never knew a time when they lived there?

Human pressures on freshwater ecosystems in Auckland are increasing. Studies show clear differences between fishes in urban areas and those in relatively unmodified areas, with species abundance and richness in urban streams at risk.

No-one disputes the economic importance of development. But the question is whether a few special wilderness areas should be left untouched. We are facing not only loss of biodiversity, but loss of inter-generational transfer of knowledge.