Community threatened by water-treatment plant opens pop-up gallery near Watercare HQ

The Save Oratia group has opened a pop-up gallery on the people, culture and heritage of their threatened community – and sited it less than a minute’s walk from the Auckland Council-controlled organisation that will decide their fate.

The West Auckland community of Oratia has been fighting a Watercare proposal to build a $300 million water treatment plant in their semi-rural valley at the foothills of the Waitakere Ranges.

Four sites have been identified for the plant – to replace the 90-year-old Huia plant, which treat water from the dams in the Waitakere Ranges – including two that could mean 12 or 18 homes on Oratia’s Parker Rd are compulsorily squired for the project. A final decision is expected on May 30.

The latest move to highlight the community’s situation is the opening of the pop-up gallery in the central Auckland suburb of Newmarket.

Photos, videos, music, clothing, stories and comics are on display in the gallery at 31 Remuera Rd. It is open between 7am and 2pm weekdays, or by appointment.

The Save Oratia group has opened a pop-up gallery on the community just metres from Watercare's head office in Newmarket. Photo / Supplied
The Save Oratia group has opened a pop-up gallery on the community just metres from Watercare’s head office in Newmarket. Photo / Supplied

Save Oratia spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said locally grown feijoas and apples will also be available, in a nod to the fact Oratia was once known as the fruit bowl of Auckland.

“And of course it’s no coincidence that it’s just down the road from Watercare’s head office … Watercare’s engineers have recommended building a new plant in our backyards, so we’re planting ourselves in theirs – in the nicest possible way.”

Thirty families, including some who have lived in the area for six generations, could be forced to leave their homes, Goldsmith said.

But the gallery was also about letting other Aucklanders know what was happening was “not just an Oratia issue”.

Protest signs outside Oratia properties earlier this year. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Protest signs outside Oratia properties earlier this year. Photo / Brett Phibbs

“We want to let central Aucklanders know that the precious Waitakere foothills, which are used as a playground by so many city dwellers and noted as being of local, regional and national significance in the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act, are under threat.

“We realise many people are interested in what’s going on in our community, but not everyone can make it out to Oratia to see for themselves – so we’re bringing the country to the city.”

NZ Herald

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