Boats removed from Okahu Bay: ‘The mauri has been restored’

A photo of hapū member Donna Tamaariki's late father, Tamaiti Tamaariki, who was instrumental in restoring the harbour. His daughter said he would be proud to see the bay today. - Photo: Supplied / Donna Tamaariki

More than 100 years since a sewage pipe polluted the once thriving and abundant waters at Okahu Bay in central Auckland, the mauri of the harbour has finally been restored.

As part of a restoration project by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei to bring life back to the harbour, 154 licensed moorings and boats have been removed.

Hapū member Donna Tamaariki said removing the boats meant a lot to her people.

"The boats took space from Okahu Bay that was originally a place of customary practice for Ngāti Whārua Ōrākei," she said.

"Okahu had already been encroached upon, and the boats were just one more thing. They were, in my opinion, the eyesore. They had an ecological impact too in regards to the leaching, and that was polluting the water."

Auckland Council accepted a submission by Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei to remove the boats under the Unitary Plan two years ago.

Since then the hapū has also hung mussel taura (ropes) off the Okahu Bay wharf to restore the mussel beds.

Ms Tamaariki said when the sewage pipe was first installed at the bay it prevented whānau from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei from accessing a vital food source.

"It was a physical barrier from the papakāinga to the moana, the food source, and to the Waitematā. Once the sewage pipe was built, the discharge into the water caused contamination, and over time it eliminated the kai that was once plentiful in Okahu.

"Once Tāmaki Drive was built, the run-off from the road and the storm water discharge flowed directly into the water and has had a detrimental impact on the ecology of the bay."

The bay had come along way since then, she said.

"I showed somebody a photo of the bay last week and they said, that's beautiful where is that? And I said, that's Okahu.

"For some, it will be unrecognisable. It's clear, it's beautiful, and the line of site out to Rangitoto is unobstructed. When I'm paddling in Okahu, I can go from one side to the other without a concern of having to dodge boats.

"The wairua has been restored, the mauri has been restored."

Ms Tamaariki called the Okahu Bay restoration project a labour of love for many of her people, including her father, the late Tamaiti Tamaariki, who passed away in May last year.

She said he would be proud to see the harbour today.

"I had a councillor say to me the other day, 'I drove past Okahu today and it looked beautiful, and every time I see it I think of your dad.'

"I am extremely proud, and I wish my dad was here to see this. I'm sure he's watching over and just saying, wowee, like he normally would."

The hapū gathered at Okahu Bay in the early hours of Friday morning to undertake a pure (ritual) to remove the tapu at the site.

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