Our way with water

09 February 2024

  • Blog

Three of our key projects working with water...

As the organisation responsible for leading Auckland Council’s urban regeneration activity, it’s always been our aim to show leadership in sustainability and to encourage an environmentally conscious philosophy by both developers and the community residing in our neighbourhoods.

Te Ara Awataha 03113

“It’s about working with natural systems, not against them.”

Eke Panuku Development Auckland Principal Regenerative Design Lead
Sara Zwart

As the organisation responsible for leading Auckland Council’s urban regeneration activity, it’s always been our aim to show leadership in sustainability and to encourage an environmentally conscious philosophy by both developers and the community residing in our neighbourhoods.

Guided by mana whenua, we work with the key principle, Aho Taiao ‘Living with nature’. This means in each area we work nature is visible, green, resilient, and ecologically healthy.

Three of our key projects: Te Ara Awataha, Northcote, Puhinui, Manukau and Wynyard Quarter on the waterfront, are living examples of this approach. 



Te Ara Awataha is a decade-long community project in Northcote, Auckland, focused around daylighting the historic Awataha Stream. As part of the broader urban regeneration of Northcote, ngā Iwi Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau (Mana Whenua), community and public sector partnerships are enabling a transformation that will benefit the area for generations.

DSC01251 Pano

Part of the Te Ara Awataha project.


For nearly 70 years, the Awataha Stream was confined underground and a taonga was nearly lost. Heavy rainfall flooded streets, and flora and fauna were uprooted.

Not surprisingly, rainwater likes to flow where streams used to exist. As Sara Zwart, Eke Panuku Development Auckland principal regenerative design lead, puts it, “it’s about working with natural systems, not against them.”

The 1.5-kilometre greenway now provides a transport route, stormwater network and native wildlife habitat; functioning as a place to gather, exercise and learn. It includes a newly constructed detention basin (Greenslade Reserve) doubling as a sports field, and over 400m of daylit streambed.

To look at it, it’s a regular sports ground, but when it rains it becomes an enormous soak pit preventing 12 million litres of water from flooding neighbouring properties. The existing sports field was lowered by 1m and underlaid with quick-draining fill to enable this to happen.

The below comparison slider shows before and after photos of Greenslade Reserve during a 2023 flooding event.

Drag the toggle left and right to compare

In extreme rainfall, like Auckland experienced in 2023, it performed perfectly, protecting life and property in Northcote.

Extreme weather events highlight to dramatic effect, the importance of the long-term resilience and high-quality assets this project is providing for the community. The new stormwater infrastructure exceeded design expectations when put to the test, resulting in minimal damage to homes and businesses as well as the surrounding environment and new amenities, meaning costly repairs and downtime for both the project and the community were avoided.

However, one of the greatest evident benefits is the return of native wildlife to the area, with flora and fauna once again making Te Ara Awataha home. This includes newly resident eels, return of puha (watercress) and the first Kākā in decades spotted by our volunteers in the area.

Mana whenua, Kāinga Ora, local schools, the Kaipātiki Project and Eke Panuku banded together to create the Awataha Stream Project.



Right across town, another stream regeneration programme is underway, and that’s the 12km Puhinui Stream in South Auckland.


An area of Puhinui stream

Physical works to improve the natural environment, amenity, accessibility, and health of the stream are part of a collaboration with Te Waiohua Iwi, Auckland council whanau, crown agencies, community organisations and the culturally rich, unique and diverse communities of Te Puhinui.

They include new wetlands, cycleways, stream naturalisation and significant native planting.

“You can’t just fix a section of a stream or fix a wetland. You need to work with everyone around it to fix every part of the system, says Zwart, “so I think that’s the work.”


Wynyard Quarter

Wynyard Quarter, which comprises approximately 37 hectares of land and almost three kilometres of coastal frontage, was designed around a sustainable development framework.

Strategic planning, design and engagement with mana whenua enabled the creation of this award-winning urban regeneration.

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Daldy Street

Construction included many sustainable design features including a low-impact stormwater system - which treats run-off from the street, park and adjacent development sites. This was particularly helpful during the Auckland flooding in 2023 when neighbouring areas experienced waist-high water and Wynyard Quarter did not.

Many of the laneway’s design features reflect a commitment to supporting sustainability, with burrow planters acting as small rain gardens, a real-life garden beneath the ground that allows the nikau grove and other greenery to flourish, and grooves carved into the laneway to form ‘purposeful puddles’ that rise and fall with the tides and provide an opportunity for play. 

There are also hundreds of grey masonry blocks which have been used to create a drain just below street level, to drain away stormwater.”  

Despite the often-harsh weather conditions, the Daldy street raingardens are thriving and serving as valuable pollution and flooding protection. 

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