For a number of years, members of St Johns Rotary have cherished the idea of coordinating a massive effort involving Trees for Survival, local schools, parents and teachers -- especially those in the Manaiakalani Schools project and near the course of the Omaru Creek. Also included is the world-class Tāmaki Regeneration Company, now under the leadership of Shelley Katae; Maungakiekie/ Ōrākei Local Boards; local councillor Josephine Bartley; and the local environment-focussed iwi, Ngāti Pāoa to ultimately revitalise the stream which runs through Glen Innes, passed Tāmaki College, close to where it enters the Tāmaki Estuary.
In recent times, clogging, pollution and litter have dogged its reputation and that peaked with a schools’ cross-country event having to be cancelled, because of toxins detected in the water.
Since then, various initiatives have been undertaken in different sections to make it more accessible to residents, and a feature for the people who live, trade and play along its banks. Lockdowns and the shock to the economy haven’t helped. Nor have the massive wastewater pipes being installed to meet the high-density, modern and more appropriate housing development and targeted renewal of the community, necessarily taking the attention away from the “dream”.
Some two years ago—in and out of lockdowns – Dr Peter Buchanan, a leading New Zealand fungi expert, was introduced to one of those typical Kiwi, low-key enviro groups, dedicated to the revival of the Apirana Reserve. The selfless trio, Ken Samson, Roger Stamp and Nanda MacLaren, have worked away, most weekends, for years, with help from a number of groups of volunteers. St Johns Rotary volunteered on one occasion to help with clearing a section – and never left. 
The land between the major Eastern Suburbs rail line and Apirana Avenue was seemingly abandoned some years ago, during a stand-off over ownership between KiwiRail and Auckland Council. Discussions about who was responsible for controlling dumping also hadn’t facilitated progress. 
St Johns Rotary members became enthusiastic about working under the leadership and guidance of the trio, who had gained experience working on clearing and replanting Motutapu. Auckland Council started to get more involved, providing hardy vegetation to replace the rotting willow trees and masses of wood mulch.
But the dispute over ownership continued to hang over full commitment. A couple of calls and some emails later, up stepped Tammy Dickinson, Senior Communications and Engagement Advisor for KiwRail and Craig Barnes, a Project Manager for KiwiRail.
The soil in the reserve was tested for quality and any ‘nasties’, large half-buried debris ripped out and a bulldozer levelled a large tract of adjoining land which had previously impeded progress, and followed with masses of mulch, for good measure.
KiwiRail, in a circular to local residents, said they were “acting to support the aspirations of the trio and supporters to re-establish the area with native plants, in an ecological corridor. In addition, KiwiRail is arranging a beautification lease with Auckland Council to support the future aspirations of the local community“.
The beam on the faces of Ken, Roger and Nanda lit up the Glen Innes sky on that murky day. And St Johns Rotary realised they could now reach the source of the Omaru Creek and start to progress their and others’ dream of creating an asset for the community, over time.
In keeping with the feeling that things were finally falling into place, Ōrakei Local Board member, Margaret Voyce, joined St Johns Rotary. Trees for Survival itself was undertaking a major refocus in its role, and included in that was the appointment of Gary Key and Peter Buchanan to their board.
According to Gary Key, the next step in the process will be for Trees for Survival to approach schools in the area and introduce a project where each school is given seedlings to cultivate into viable plantings and then plant them in appropriate local areas, under supervision. The students are given an appreciation for horticulture, a valuable life-skill and a potential career-path.
Peter Buchanan indicated that affiliate Rotary clubs like Auckland East, Remuera and Ellerslie, because of their proximity and interest in assisting the local community, could be approached to participate.
The pioneering Apirana Reserve trio, St Johns Rotary, and Local Board members will be joining the Ōrakei Volunteer Expo at the Auckland Netball Centre on 17 September 10am – 2pm.