The Wharemauku Stream is notable to visitors and residents of Paraparaumu alike for the fact that it runs underneath the Coastlands Mall, built in 1969 [see photo below, right]. Seeing it straightened, stripped of its indigenous ecology and thrust into such a jarring constructed landscape, many might mistake it for a man-made drain; few would be able to imagine how it might have looked in its natural state before this area was developed for farmland and settlements 150 years ago.
The source of the Wharemauku Stream is in the Maungakotukutuku valley, from where it flows westwards through the Paraparaumu and Raumati Beach areas, before reaching the Tasman Sea on the northern side of Raumati Marine Gardens [see photo below left]. The stream once meandered through coastal swamp forests and wetlands dominated by kahikatea, swamp maire, pukatea and harakeke (swamp flax) into a constantly changing lagoon-estuary at its outlet to the Tasman sea. But unlike its journey to the sea a century ago, this little stream must now traverse substantial man-made terrain and infrastructure in order to make its way to the sea: it passes through Kapiti Golf Course, under the North Island Main Trunk Railway, State Highway 1 and Coastlands Shopping Centre [see photo, right], and through part of Paraparaumu Airport.
One place – the Kaitawa Reserve in eastern Paraparaumu [click here to view location, the reserve is just west of Kaitawa Crescent], provides a glimpse of how the stream might have looked before Kapiti was developed for farming and settlements 150 years ago. Here, the stream is clear and healthy, its banks verdant with lush regenerating bush, and its burbling waters habitat to abundant koura (freshwater crayfish), kokopu (a native fish) and other creatures.
Yet, had it not been for an alert and conservation-minded resident, this too may have been destroyed.
Late in 1995 a Forest & Bird member, Molly Neill, saw a notice in the local newspaper stating that the Council planned to sell some of its “excess” reserves off for development – one of these was the Kaitawa Reserve. Molly and the other Forest & Bird members recognised that although overrun by gorse, blackberry, crack willow and other exotic weed species, the Kaitawa was a piece of nature worth preserving, and objected to the sale. Instead, they proposed that a team of volunteers would work on removing the weeds if the Council would provide spray and native plants for revegetation. The Parks and Reserves manager reluctantly agreed to an initial trial, but on seeing the results of the team’s work, soon became more cooperative.
A group of about 10 residents have worked untiringly on weeding and revegetating the reserve with more than 10,000 plants since the winter of 1996. Molly Neill has since passed away and a memorial, set amidst native plantings, now stands to remember her spirit and her efforts [see photo, right].
[Photo top left: A view of Wharemauku Stream in the Kaitawa Reserve. Above right: A view of the same stream less than 1 km to the north-east, as it passes under Coastlands Mall. Above left: The stream where it meets the sea in Raumati. Bottom right: The memorial to Molly Neill at Kaitawa Reserve. (Photos: C. Knight)].