Do you know about Auckland's longest river? Lets plant more trees and protect the Hoteo!

11 Mar 2016 by The Million Metres team Auckland Council Auckland

Georgi Hart from Million Metres at the Sustainable Business Network explains her connection to the Hoteo River, the history of the river and land use around it, key concerns for the ecosystems that once thrived along the river, and the crowdfunding campaign currently underway to achieve 1.2km of tree planting along its headwaters. 

Do you know about the Hoteo River? I’ve lived in Auckland for 20 years and hadn’t heard of the Hoteo until I was contracted to write a report about its health about two years ago.


She’s a beauty of a river, a real-deal long flowing river that spans nearly the width of the North Island about an hour north of Auckland city. She’s the longest river in the Auckland region and she runs through a rural catchment from her headwaters in Te Arai on the East Coast all the way into the Kaipara Harbour on the west coast.  


Farming families have lived along her banks for generations – the oldies remember how when settlers first came it was logging and not pastoral agriculture that dominated activity along the river. Not long after the trees were felled for their precious timber the land was converted for sheep, beef and dairy farming. Late in the 20th century the steep hills around her were planted in pine forest. 


Before European settlers came to this area it was the home to many Mana Whenua iwi that thrived on its plentiful food sources, from both the river and harbour.


Many small patches of bush remain in the catchment, dotted about, but for the most part the land has been stripped of its former forest filled with the native life particular to the region. Once the forest was gone soils practically flowed off the newly stripped land into the river and found itself deposited there. Each time it rained more soils were picked up by the waters and flowed off the land into the river. Now the rains do the same and they fill the river and flow down it’s channel with a lot of energy, enough to stir up the soils that settled in the river long ago when the trees were first felled; they get picked up and carried a bit further – eventually making their way down into the Kaipara harbour.


Waters filled with the small, light clay soil particles, like the ones that make up most of the soils in the Hoteo catchment, are not a good environment for freshwater species, and the sediments that reach the harbour smother the sea grass that grows at the mouth of the river. Sea grass supports many animals including baby snapper, who feed on the yummy morsels hidden amongst the grass. The snapper are dwindling, and their breeding ground is polluted – the inanga are dwindling and many of their safe breeding spots on the river have been lost. In many cases we don’t even know what we’ve lost in terms of the life that once thrived in and along the Hoteo.


The river and harbour will not thrive again unless we stop the sediments and nutrients polluting the water in the river – water that needs to be cool, clean and clear to support abundant life – and to be safe for people to swim in and drink from.


Nearly all of the land around the Hoteo is owned privately, and experts toil away at engaging those land owners in taking on better farm practices to limit the soils making it off their land into the river. But this is long, slow work that it is hard for everyday New Zealanders to be involved in, and this, while important, is only part of the solution.


We’ve worked hard at Million Metres to come up with a way that anyone concerned about the state of our rivers can be part of the solution. We’ve worked to make it easy by setting up a website where you can donate a metre of stream planting to a project of your choice from around the country.


The trees we plant for along the Hoteo River will enhance the beauty of this landscape. They will provide critical habitat for both land and river species. They will keep the stream cool enough for fish to reproduce and will filter soil and pollution out of water run-off from the land before it reaches the stream. Not only does this improve water quality and ecosystem health locally around the planting site, but (when the scale of planting becomes large enough) it will improve water quality all down the catchment and in the marine environment. The trees we plant may be able to save the Southern Kaipara snapper nursery if we move fast enough, and ensure the fishery isn’t being over-fished as well.  


Become part of the national story to plant a million metres (1000 kilometres) of stream bank before 2030 by supporting John and Geraldine Taylor, who have been farming at the headwaters of the Hoteo River for more than 50 years. They are committed to restoring native bush to their riparian areas and to making a difference for water quality in the Hoteo River.


The Taylors are crowdfunding now to plant 1200m (1.2km) of stream on Tomarata Farm and they need our help to get them all the way there. They are contributing 25% of the project cost, Auckland Council is contributing 25%, and they are crowdfunding the remaining 50% of the cost of getting the trees in the ground.


John and Geraldine have already crowdfunded nearly 30% of their target – but there is still away to go to see the full 1.2km of planting achieved this winter.


Watch their video and support them today here.