Waihorotiu Stream and the taniwha buried beneath Auckland CBD – Stuff

Queen St sewer built around Waihorotiu in 1860. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 1043-032

Auckland Libraries/supplied

Queen St sewer built around Waihorotiu in 1860. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 1043-032

Queen St is one of New Zealand’s most iconic roadways. Over a period of over 150 years, foot/car traffic and businesses have set themselves up in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Tāmaki Makaurau’s city life.

What people may be unaware of however, is that an ancient awa (river) rests beneath the asphalt that has carried everything from horse and carriage to the public bus and Tesla car.

It’s called Waihorotiu Stream, and is one of the many streams around Auckland that have been covered in. It runs from a marsh now called Aotea Square out to the Waitematā Harbour.

Despite this, it is an awa with a long and detailed history with mana whenua and early colonial settlers, and could play a part in the future of Auckland CBD.

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STUFF

For thousands of years, Te Puhinui wove its way through Tāmaki Makaurau, meandering its 12 kilometre stretch through south Auckland down to the Manukau Harbour.

A short history

Before the first colonial ships arrived in the Waitematā Harbour, the Waihorotiu Stream was a prominent feature in the lives of mana whenua.

Near the banks of the water lay a settlement named Ngā Wharau a Tako, which used the banks of the awa for agriculture alongside hunting, fishing and gathering. The site sat on what is now Albert, Kingston and Federal streets.

The waterway is the domain of Horotiu – a mighty Taniwha, whom the stream is named after.

An 1843 letter explaining that soldiers will be placed on the banks of the Ligar Canal to prevent people from falling into the stream while walking down Queen St. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 1876 ACC MB 74-77

Supplied/Auckland Libraries

An 1843 letter explaining that soldiers will be placed on the banks of the Ligar Canal to prevent people from falling into the stream while walking down Queen St. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 1876 ACC MB 74-77

In Māoridom, taniwha are often considered kaitiaki, or guardians of te taiao, or the natural world and its people. They are also seen, however, as supernatural and dangerous.

Horotiu protects the stream, while mana whenua lived with reverence to him.

As European settlers began to colonise the area in the nineteenth century, the stream became polluted as pubs and hotels along the river bank would dump raw sewage and waste directly into it.

Attempts to encase the river led to the creation of the Ligar Canal, which proved to be incredibly unpopular. It was eventually bricked over in 1860 in order to create a sewer down Queen St, where it remains underground today.

An 1842 Plan for Auckland, the stream is visible running down Queen St.

Supplied

An 1842 Plan for Auckland, the stream is visible running down Queen St.

The South Korea example

In 2005 Seoul, capital of South Korea, dug up a busy elevated motorway to expose the hidden stream underneath. It was also transformed into a public space, with species of fish and birds returning to the waterway.

Called the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project, it was transformed at a cost of over 386 billion won (NZ$464m).

Called the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project, it was transformed at a cost of over 386 million won (464 million NZD) in 2005. (File photo)

NurPhoto

Called the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project, it was transformed at a cost of over 386 million won (464 million NZD) in 2005. (File photo)

Pedestrians can walk alongside it on footpaths at street level, or descend stairs or ramps to the water. There are steps for sitting next to the water and stepping stones for traversing it across 22 bridges.

Could we see Waihorotiu Stream daylighted?

For the time being, the answer is no.

An Auckland Council spokesperson said there were no plans to daylight the stream anytime soon, however that didn’t mean it would just be ignored.

“The scope of the current Queen Street upgrade does not include daylighting the Waihorotiu stream, but focuses on creating a more spacious, green and people-focused street,” they said.

Jenny Larking, head of city centre programmes at Auckland Council, said Aucklanders will see the wayfinding patterns.

Auckland Council/Supplied

Jenny Larking, head of city centre programmes at Auckland Council, said Aucklanders will see the wayfinding patterns.

”As part of this current upgrade we are acknowledging the stream through a new Waihorotiu path, giving more space to people walking or using active modes.”

The mahi will involve painting symbolic wayfinding patterns down Queen St.

Jenny Larking, head of city centre programmes at Auckland Council, said the patterns will serve two purposes.

“The approach is twofold: the system of ground markings along our new Waihorotiu path carries cultural expression of the Waihorotiu valley narrative, developed by the project’s mana whenua partners, and also safety measures for effective operation of the path,” she said.

“Supporting the other wayfinding measures we have built into the design, the markings help define the area of the multi-use path and provide visual delineation, guiding user behaviour at key locations such as pedestrian crossings and bus boarding areas,” she said.

An example of the markings that will appear down Queen St to honour the stream

Supplied/Auckland Council

An example of the markings that will appear down Queen St to honour the stream

Kaunuku designer Tahua Pihema said the patterns elevate mana whenua aspirations to see themselves reflected in their taiao (natural environment) of Tāmaki Makaurau.

Auckland councillor Chris Darby said the move would be significant for Aucklanders.

“They will enable our celebrated main street to become a place where people want to shop and spend time, while telling our stories and expressing our cultural heritage in this built canvas.”

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