A couple of years ago I wrote about my exploration of the Oakley Creek Walkway along the length of the stream from its origin. At that time I was frustrated in my efforts because the middle section was undergoing a major redevelopment.
The Te Auaunga Awa restoration project will replace the existing concrete channel that currently contains Oakley Creek with a wider naturalised stream channel. Underground pipes and pedestrian bridges will also be replaced. This restoration project will help prevent ongoing flooding issues. “Te Auaunga Awa (Oakley Creek) is a tāonga (treasure) in Wesley, Mt Roskill. It is Auckland’s longest uninterrupted urban stream. This project will help create a lasting legacy in the area.”
This project is now complete and I ventured forth to explore the new park areas. I started off from the Valonia St Reserve at the southern end of Alan Wood Park and across the Te Whitinga (The Crossing) bridge that passes over the southwestern motorway as it descends into the Waterview Tunnel. Oakley Creek passes under the motorway alongside the bridge. From there I continue upstream under a newly renovated bridge on Richardson Road that now allows a cycle path to go underneath as well, providing great continuity between the interconnecting parks.
On the other side is Underwood Park – and what a transformation! What had previously been just a concreted ‘storm channel’ containing the stream has now been returned to a much more natural water course. The stream now meanders through the park and has been planted up appropriately with reeds, flaxes and more. There are pukekos (swamp hens) everywhere. Ducks are enjoying the water. A pair of swallows swoop around. It wont be long before the plants become established as in the other sections of Oakley Creek.
The paths and boardwalks are creatively finished and link to all sorts of different play areas. Logs of different sizes form a wonderful climbing area shaded by big trees that have been retained. New undulating tracks snake around under the trees and out into the open. It is wonderful to see the local children making the most of these – I watch a brother and sister racing each other around on their scooters, then a family with a series of different size bikes getting smaller and smaller with the littlest one pushing herself round with her feet on a trike.
This is not a particularly well off area with a high proportion of state houses so it is fantastic to see how interconnected the park is with the surrounding community with lots of paths coming in and out. Some of the houses back directly onto the park, even those with nothing in their gardens but grass. Some could walk straight across, over a bridge and onto a much larger sports field and park area, and then climb up the side of Owairaka (Mt Albert) if they wished.
Further along the park changes to include many more areas for picnics and socialising with tables under the trees and a band stand area. Even though it was still early morning when I walked around, there were lots of locals enjoying their park. It is fabulous to see the council investing in areas for the community and with just a little extra creative effort making fun places that people want to be.