Recreation Use of the Harbour

Date: 23/03/2016

Wharves that used to be around the perimeter of the Manukau Harbour - click for larger view


The Manukau was alive with boats

Boating on the Manukau has a long history.  The harbour was a favourite shark fishing area of the Maori. Portages around the harbour such as at Waiuku, Otahuhu and Green Bay were used by Maori to transfer their waka from the Waikato River through to the harbour and beyond to the Waitemata. Early settlers arrived in New Zealand at Onehunga and before the main trunk rail line and roads were built through the central North Island, the route from Auckland to Wellington and further south involved taking the 3pm sailing from Onehunga to New Plymouth. Wharves dotted around the harbour’s foreshore and scheduled ferry service provided access to the small farming communities around the harbour before roads were built.  Boats docked at wharves at Whatipu and Huia, loaded logs milled in the Waitakeres and took Kauri to destinations as far as California. Picnickers were taken by boat from Onehunga to beaches around the harbour for day trips. Scheduled ferry service continued into the 1950’s when roads were built and ferries became less efficient. Sailing clubs dotted the foreshore and the harbour was active with small boats. Since the 1950’s the wharves, jetties and boat ramps have been allowed to fall into disrepair and many have been removed.  Public use of the Onehunga wharf, once the hub of most boating on the harbour, has been curtailed and facilities there allowed to deteriorate.  The port has become an industrial facility. There is no all-tide access for ferries, recreational or emergency boats at Onehunga and this is a major impediment to reestablishing passenger service on the harbour.

Growth in population and use of the harbour is also necessitating more emergency services and little provision for emergency services exists on the harbour. A maritime emergency in Onehunga requires a CoastGuard vessel to be driven from Papakura or launched at French Bay (Titirangi) and brought down the channel, a very difficult undertaking when the tide is out and the boat has to be hauled across mudflats to reach navigable waters. 

New recreation activities require more facilities:
With population growth, changes in boat and vehicle technology, new sports such as kayaking, kite surfing and paddle boarding, recreational use of the harbour is burgeoning. Visit Little Huia and Cornwallis on a hot summer’s weekend and over a hundred vehicles and trailers are parked on the front paddocks and along the foreshore as boats head  over the bar and within 15 minutes of leaving Huia are enjoying a day of deep sea fishing. During special events over 200 boats with vehicles and trailers can be at Huia and Cornwallis. 

Boats are launching directly from beaches as boat ramps are either in complete disrepair or nonexistent. By not providing adequate facilities, beaches and the foreshore are being overused and potentially damaged and other uses of the beaches are discouraged or made dangerous. The lack of sufficient boating amenities around the harbour is forcing all the boat users into a few locations causing parking, traffic and safety issues, potentially damaging the environment of those areas and making it unpleasant and unsafe for other people wanting to use the beaches.

The Committee for Auckland in its Three Waters Report notes that by 2031, 49 new boat ramps, 2084 new boat moorings, 10 new wharves and jetties, 5 new ferry terminals, 4 new coastguard units and 12 new yacht clubs will be required to serve the projected increase in Auckland’s population to keep the same level of access as is now – which on the Manukau is grossly inadequate.  

Residential population around the harbour is increasing and projected to grow substantially in the next 30 years particularly to the south. Road networks don’t have the capacity to move all these people. Similarly recreational and visitor use of the foreshore, adjacent parkland such as the Waitakere Ranges and Awhitu Regional parks and tourist attractions such as the Glenbrook Vintage Railway is growing rapidly. Outlying communities around the harbour see growth in tourism as their future economic base.  Ferry and water taxi service is now feasible, but requires all- tide access at major hubs such as Onehunga and Waiuku and wharves, jetties and other facilities around the harbour. 

The harbour has the potential to once again be a recreational and transportation amenity serving Auckland’s growing population. But the harbour simply does not have the facilities to accommodate all the recreational demands as well as the growing demand for passenger service.  Providing more facilities around the harbour will increase access to it, take pressure off currently overused areas, allow growth in the tourism industry around the harbour and link outlying, growing communities with central Auckland.

Opening the Onehunga wharf to public use and providing all-tide facilities is key to opening the harbour to passenger service. The Waiuku community is working hard to reopen the Waiuku estuary to boating but this will be in vain if the Onehunga wharf is not improved at the same time.

Population growth will generate more recreational use of the harbour whether or not the appropriate amenities are provided. Growth will exacerbate the stark inadequacy of emergency services and vessels on the harbour. 

MHRS believes that as proposed, the overlapping protections and zoning requirements, for instance SEA’s, restrictions on removing mangroves, pacific oyster shells or dredging that are placed on the foreshore by provisions of the proposed Unitary Plan, will restrict rather than manage the provision of amenities which will allow Auckland residents to once again enjoy using the Manukau harbour. 

MHRS has requested changes be made to the PAUP to facilitate the provision of these much needed amenities and vital services. 

Logically, these recommendations would come through a planning process but no plan for the entire harbour has been conducted for the Manukau. A marine spatial plan for the harbour has been proposed, but will not be commenced until after the completion of the Hauraki Gulf and Kaipara Harbour plans. Thus planning for the Manukau Harbour is unlikely to begin in the next 5 years and pressure for facilities exists now. 


Also Read  Mangere All Tide Boat Ramp