From lush to mush

16:00, Nov 28 2013
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Disappointed: Puketapapa Local Board member Michael Wood with Wendy John at the edge of the contaminated Wairaki Stream which has been stoppered for remediation.
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Buckets of trouble: Contractors were called into clean the stream which was up to 50cm deep in concrete sludge in parts.
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Hard work: Large boulders of solidified concrete had to be pulled out and were taken away by the trailer-load.

Careless concrete workers have turned a lush suburban waterway into a sludgy grey mess.

Conservationist Wendy John was working in Lynfield Reserve when the muck caught her eye in Wairaki Stream.

"It was grey and it was like big blobs. There was a lot of stuff on the top and the stream was a mustardy colour underneath. Then I saw some dead eels," she says.

She got on to Auckland Council's pollution hotline immediately.

"It was just fortuitous that someone was on site who knew what it's all about," she says.

Ms John is the chairwoman of Friends of Oakley Creek, a group that works to improve the quality of the creek that meanders through central Auckland suburbs.

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She says the spill is the worst she has ever seen.

A council spokeswoman says the discharge occurred when nearby workers poured concrete into a trench at the base of a retaining wall.

Contractors were sent to restore the contaminated water, which required damming so that large boulders of solidified concrete could be pulled out and taken away by trailer.

In some parts the concrete sludge was up to 50cm high.

The council spokeswoman says the company culpable for polluting the site will be held financially responsible for the cleanup.

"At this stage we do not know what the overall cost of the stream remediation will be," she says.

Ms Johns says small creeks are often treated as drains rather than part of a stream network.

"Most of it is lack of understanding and education but then you've got times when contractors are just being lazy so they dump stuff," she says. "But it's about respecting the natural environment. Everything that lives in that stream has just as much right to live as we do."

The Wairaki Stream flows into the Manukau Harbour at Lynfield Cove.

Puketapapa Local Board member Michael Wood says the incident is particularly sad as it is known as being one of the best urban streams because of its bush surroundings.

Its lush environment provides a haven for native fish.

"The thing that is particularly galling is that there has been such a lot of effort put in by hundreds of volunteers to try to preserve these streams which have been abused by generations," Mr Wood says.

Central Leader