Unflushables and upcoming festivities

Summer, at last. The days are longer, the sky is brighter, and the beach is looking more enticing. It was a relief when, in mid-November, Ngāti Whātua lifted the rāhui on the Waitematā Harbour, following one of the biggest pollution events we’ve ever known when the Ōrākei main sewer pipeline collapsed. We’re a coastal city and for the majority of us, being near or playing in and on the water is one of the primary reasons we live in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland.

Hats off to Watercare which engineered an incredibly complex bypass solution in record time, but even that has hit troubled waters as the continued flushing of ‘flushable’ wet wipes keeps blocking up the pumps and causing further overflows. Here are a few things you ought to know about these so called flushable wet wipes: They don’t degrade and, when mixed with other inappropriate material such as oils and fats (also a dumb choice of product to tip down the drain), they create fatbergs of congealed matter that block our pipes causing overflows and $4million of repairs and maintenance to our pump stations annually. Every single day, we dump six tonnes of the stuff into landfill, costing over $2000 in tip levies each time. It’s not just the cost that makes my eyes water, it’s the environmental damage we’re causing.  
Our local board, with the support of the other northern local boards, has sent a letter to the new Minister for the Environment asking that the Government declares flushable wipes as a priority product under the Waste Minimisation Act, just as single use plastic bags were in 2019. For clarity, I’m not including standard baby wipes, as these typically get wrapped up in a nappy and disposed of properly; I’m talking about any that proclaim to be flushable. They’re not.
In more uplifting news (sorry about grumpy Toni of the wet wipes!), we’re officially in the silly season, although I note the malls and town centres had their decorations up pretty much the day after Halloween. As you may know, I have three young children, so this is the month we’ve been waiting for. The local board has put some weight behind a huge range of Christmas events on offer in the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board area. Kicking off in Devonport town centre on Friday 1 December is Friday after Five: Devonport’s annual street festival. Clarence Street is closed off and the bands are rolled in. There will be street food, street games, live music, valet parking outside Bikes & Barbers, and shops open late, to kick start your Christmas shopping. Thanks to the Devonport Business Association for delivering this exceptional event that brings the village to life.
The next day, in Takapuna, the new town centre will be put through its paces as the Takapuna Beach Business Association delivers its Christmas Festival from 9-3pm. On Saturday 2 December, Hurstmere Road features a festival of markets, live music, children’s entertainment, bouncy castles, food trucks, street games, Sammy the Train and, of course, the big man in red there to whisper your Christmas list to. Takapuna’s town centre is proving its worth and it's wonderful to see people enjoying their lunch breaks there, and little kids loving the water feature. The new operator for the Sunday Market is doing an absolutely stellar job and the place is vibrant and buzzing.
Then, on Sunday 3 December, the annual Devonport Santa Parade and Christmas Festival is on from 11am. If you’re not a Devonport local, then I recommend coming along. Pretty much everyone that lives in Devonport participates in the parade, so chances of catching lollies are well in your favour.
Our friends the North Shore Brass Band will perform a wonderful Christmas concert at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell at 7.30pm on Saturday 2 December. With North Shore Brass teaming up with the Cantare Choir from Westlake Girls High School, this will be a magical night not to miss.
Between 2 and 22 December Tim Bray’s brilliant The Santa Claus Show will be on at The PumpHouse Theatre, and on December 17, in the Amphitheatre, there will be a fun sing-along of everyone’s favourite Christmas carols. Find out more from The PumpHouse Theatre’s website.
It’s certainly been a year of challenge for many in our community. We all deserve a fantastic Christmas with the people we love, but it’s important to remember that this won’t be the case for everyone. This is why Auckland Council has chosen to support the Auckland City Mission Christmas appeal to ensure Aucklanders in greatest need can celebrate Christmas too. Gift donation boxes have been set up at all Council libraries, pools and leisure centres. If you can spare an extra gift, please place unwrapped food and presents in the collection by Tuesday 5 December. Equally, you can order a gift online from your favourite shop and have these delivered directly to City Mission at 140 Hobson Street, Auckland Central, Auckland 1010.
Merry Christmas everyone. Enjoy the holidays, rest yourselves, and get excited for a new year of opportunity ahead. You never know, 2024 might be the year we Aucklanders catch a break! Here’s hoping.

Toni van Tonder, Chair, Devonport-Takapuna Local Board
Email: toni.vantonder@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz

Issue 148 December-January 2023