A tight-knit community in the Waitakere foothills is in shock after discovering that their beautiful semi-rural valley could be devastated by a huge industrial water treatment plant.
Auckland’s water company Watercare needs to replace its ageing Huia Water Treatment Plant and is considering three possible sites – rebuilding on its existing site, building on land it owns next door and building in Parker Road, Oratia. If Oratia is chosen it would tear apart one of the few remaining semi-rural villages in the Auckland region still populated by the families who settled it more than 100 years ago.
Thirty Oratia families, some of whom have lived in Parker Road for six generations, are living in fear of being evicted from their homes. For some, not only their home but also their income is at risk – one of the last remaining productive orchards in a village once known as the fruit bowl of Auckland could be bulldozed if the development goes ahead.
The proposed Parker Road site also has unique ecological value, with the Oratia foothills and their orcharding heritage specifically cited as worthy of preservation in the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act.
“It’s simply unbelievable that they’d even consider dumping an industrial monstrosity like this in the heart of such a beautiful valley with such a unique cultural heritage,” says Save Oratia spokesperson Chris Stone.
“We are committed to working constructively with Watercare and the Watercare Board to engage in a robust consultation process and reach a solution that doesn’t tear our unique community apart. And if that fails, we’re organised, we’re gathering a war chest and we are prepared to fight through all legal avenues for as long as it takes to protect the land of our great great grandfathers for the future of our grandchildren.”
The Auckland Council-controlled Watercare met polite but vocal opposition from about 700 concerned Oratia residents at a meeting on February 21, then backed out of a second meeting planned for March 1, promising further consultation. Despite Watercare’s no-show, about 1000 people from Oratia and the wider Waitakere Ranges area turned out to the second meeting to voice their concerns.
Instead of the promised consultation, Watercare gave groups of up to 10 people guided tours of its aging Huia Water Treatment Plant on 8-9 April.
“We don’t believe these tours present a genuine consultation opportunity,” says Chris Stone. “We’re not interested in a show-and-tell about their existing plant – we are interested in the devastating social impact on our interconnected, multi-generational heritage community if the Watercare Board chooses to locate their new plant in Oratia.”
On Sunday 9 April Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett expressed her support for Oratia at a third public meeting to discuss Watercare’s proposal to build a huge water treatment plant in the heritage valley.
“This is personal,” she told the meeting of more than 1200 people. “It’s not just about those that are in the red zone and whose homes will be taken. I am a resident of this community and it’s absolutely about all of us. I don’t stand by you, I don’t stand next to you, I stand with you. I am you. This is my community and I don’t want to see Watercare tearing the heart out of what I think is our community. I am a citizen and I will stand with the residents of Oratia. I feel really strongly and I’m quite happy to have it on record that I think this place is the wrong choice.”
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff also attended the high-powered meeting, as did Watercare CEO Raveen Jaduram, Auckland Councillors Penny Hulse and Linda Cooper, former Waitakere Mayor Sir Bob Harvey, members of the Waitakere Ranges Local Board and the National, Labour and Green candidates for the Helensville electorate at the upcoming general election.
Watercare CEO Raveen Jaduram confirmed that a decision on the future site of the plant had been brought forward and would now be made at the Watercare Board’s next meeting on Tuesday 30 May.
Chris Stone says Watercare should go back to the drawing board and consider alternative site options that do not necessitate displacing families from their homes, tearing a tight-knit heritage community apart, or damaging significant native trees. “It is an industrial plant and it belongs in an industrial area.”
“We are heartened by the support we have received from our neighbours in Titirangi, Waiatarua and the rest of the Waitakere Ranges, who stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us in demanding that no homes are destroyed in the choice of a location for this water treatment plant. This is not just an Oratia issue – it’s a real challenge to the Waitakere Ranges heritage area, which has been identified by central government as such a unique and valuable taonga for the people of New Zealand that it is protected by its own act of parliament.”
Watercare needs to replace the current Huia Water Treatment Plant in Woodlands Park.
Their consultants identified about 40 possible sites and have narrowed this down to three:
- Upgrading the existing site in Woodlands Park
- Building on land they own in Manuka Road next door to the existing site
- Moving the plant to Parker Road, Oratia (two sub-sites)
Thirty families (a total of 104 people), some of whom have lived on this land for six generations, are living in fear that Oratia will be chosen and their homes could be compulsorily acquired under the Public Works Act.
The Oratia foothills and their orcharding heritage are specifically cited as worthy of preservation in the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act.
The proposed treatment plant would be up to 9.6ha in size and cost $300 to $350 million.
Watercare’s Board is expected to make a decision on the final site at its meeting on 30 May.
WHAT IS WATERCARE PROPOSING?
Watercare is looking for a place to build a new water treatment plant, and has come up with a shortlist of three sites, including a beautiful semi-rural valley in the Waitakere Ranges foothills that has been home to some families for up to six generations. The community of Oratia and surrounding villages is uniting to oppose this. We ask Watercare to go back to the drawing board and find an alternative that does not involve displacing families from their homes, tearing a loving community apart and destroying our precious natural heritage.
WATERCARE’S OPTION 3 IS NOT AN OPTION
The illustrations below, taken from Watercare’s most recent flyer, show Option 3 as one Parker Road site with north and south sub-sites. One engineering report suggests that both sub-sites may be required, which means that 30 families are living in fear of losing their homes.
130 PARKER ROAD (NORTH) DEVELOPMENT
Watercare has identified 12 homes and families who would be displaced if this option were chosen, with five other homes as close as 32m to the boundary.
CLICK ON IMAGES FOR LARGER VIEW
152 PARKER ROAD (SOUTH) DEVELOPMENT
Watercare has identified 18 homes and families who would be displaced if this option was chosen, with 11 other homes as close as 20m from the boundary.
CLICK ON IMAGES FOR LARGER VIEW