The Magic of the Mudlarks

Twenty six thousand. Let’s say that again—26,000. That’s the number of man hours the mighty Mudlarks have spent to date, bringing the Waiuku Estuary back to its former glory.

The Mudlarks started back in 2010, when local resident Ian Scobie got a bit restless in his retirement and decided to carry out a wee bit of cleaning up on the foreshore in front of his home. A decision to clear a few mangroves so the waterway could be enjoyed, quickly became an obsession, and thank goodness for that!

This goal became a shared one as more keen mangrove munchers joined in on the messy project, and the mighty Mudlarks was formed. Since then the group have removed 7200 bundles of mangroves, equating to 1800 tonnes of the seed spewing plants and clearing an area of 21 hectares. That’s a lot of mud crusty work!

During the recent Seaweek celebrations, the Mudlarks hosted a guided walk along the estuary trail. People travelled from all over Auckland to hear about the work this amazing community group have carried out. Before and after photos were displayed and it was a stunning sight to see the significant change the Mudlarks have brought to the estuary.

How the mangroves first came about was a key talking point during the walk. Ted Kitching, the group’s resident ornithologist said, “Prior to the 1940s, there were no mangroves in the estuary area. It’s thought that ocean currents probably brought mangroves across from Australia in the first instance.”

Mangroves cannot regrow once their stumps are cut, and the water volume of the estuary also increases as the mangroves are removed, as mud held by them washes away allowing more water to flow in.

The Mudlark’s work entails far more than messing about in the mud. A trail orchard has been planted with the vision of walkers being able to pick a treat as they wander along. Pest trapping is also underway and future work includes developing the trail so that it becomes an all-weather track. The group are also responsible for the Mudlarks bridge on the estuary trail, providing trail users with an easy and safe short cut across Owens Road creek. By responsible, I don’t mean they organised the bridge, I mean they built it—with their own hands. Their initial plans for the bridge were shot down by Council due to the foundation design. However inspiration came via a visit to the Poet’s Bridge in Taranaki and the bridge build was back on.

The removal of 30 truckloads of mud was required just to get the concrete abutment underway, and finally when they were ready to hoist the bridge into place, a further debate with Council ensued. These are resourceful wise folk though and in the end they’ve overcome every obstacle thrown their way. The bridge is testament to the determination of the Mudlarks and features Maori carvings courtesy of local elder George Flavell.

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