Why streams matter to me

1 Jun 2016 by The Million Metres team Auckland Council Northland

Andy Kenworthy, a writer on sustainability and conservation, shares his reasons for joining the Million Metres team.

Pincey Brook emerges from a marsh at the edge of the ancient Essex village of Hatfield Broad Oak. As a kid I would mud battle under a nearby bridge while cars whooshed overhead. I watched sticklebacks swim as the water babbled through farms and woodlands.

Downstream, the Brook joins the River Stort. Aged nine I learned to kayak there in the snow. Later it meets the Thames in the heart of London, and then out to the English Channel.  

The water’s passage matches my own. From childhood games to teenage adventures and on to adult concerns. It runs through my culture and history. I speak ‘Estuary English’ like Russel Brand and Jamie Oliver. The waters still define me, although I am half a world away.

Most of us have similar stories, especially in New Zealand. Kiwis have a deep connection to the sea. The country’s waterways carry that connection into the heart of the land.

The streams were getting dirty long before any of us were born. But the process is accelerating. Pointing the finger of blame won’t clean them up again. One way or another we have all benefited from the industries and activities that caused this. But we can turn it around.

Seven generations ago my wife’s family arrived here in a boat from Scotland. They rowed down the Wairoa River to the south Auckland village that then shared its name. I want our two children’s lives to be enriched by the water as much as mine has been. I want them to be safe to play in the river, like I was. I want them to be proud of the life in the streams. It's a part of their lives. It's part of their stories.

The Million Metres Streams project will help make that happen. 

That’s why it’s so important to me. It’s why I am proud to be a part of it.   

Andy Kenworthy has worked in sustainable business since 2000. He is the Sustainable Business Network communications and campaigns co-ordinator.