In 1956, the Kaituna Cut diverted the flow of the Kaituna River away from its natural outlet via Te Awa o Ngatoroirangi / Maketu Estuary to allow the surrounding areas to be drained and farmed. However, with the loss of freshwater flows the health of the estuary collapsed - it is now half full of sand, has lost 90% of its wetlands, and populations of finfish and shellfish have crashed. A project was established (funded and led by BoPRC) to re-divert at least 20% of the rivers flow to the estuary and re-create 20 hectares of wetland. WSP were engaged to lead the planning and consenting process, along with supporting environmental and property services.
There was significant community interest and local knowledge, but also a divergent range of views on how things should (or shouldnât) be done. Obtaining a consensus on the balance between environmental, cultural, social and economic matters put the project under intense public scrutiny. A range of tools were used to convey technical aspects of the project to the community. Staging the consent compliance requirements also enabled early works to get underway and ensured the community saw early benefits, helping their understanding and ongoing support of the project. The recently commissioned project has already resulted in positive outcomes, with improved water quality through increased flushing and the return of finfish and bird species. Collaboration with iwi to achieve cultural outcomes was critical to the success of all stages of the project and ensured that the project would contribute to the restoration of cultural knowledge and the mauri of the river and estuary. The project has also been an opportunity to build social capacity and knowledge, so that the community can sustain and nurture the environmental benefits. This success shows that planners and organisations who listen to, collaborate with, and develop an ongoing relationship with their communities, can be a vehicle to enable significant positive change. Planners have been an integral part of the project from inception through to completion. This continuity showed that planning added significant value right through this project, ensuring that it was developed and implemented in a collaborative way with a holistic view of the environment.