The power of collaboration is on full display with the Te Auaunga Project through its delivery of a range of social, environmental, cultural, and economic outcomes.
While the project was designed to reduce the flood risk in this suburb, it is much more than that. It also enables urban intensification and higher density housing in this under-developed Central Auckland suburb.
The story of Te Auaunga dates back nearly ninety years, when a stream which had run through a wetland in the area was converted into a straightened, concrete lined stormwater channel. Like many similar channels, it was bordered by mown grass and exotic trees. But the channel had problems: ever since it was closed in, the 1.3-kilometre stretch of undeveloped reserve between Richardson Road and Sandringham Road was prone to flooding, leading to damage to neighbouring houses in the 1970s.
As part of the project, the stream was returned to a naturalised state, which enhanced water quality and created ecosystems designed to control runoff as well as encourage wildlife. Around 120,000 native trees were planted and a Māra hūpara, a playground which draws on traditional Māori play, was constructed.
Alongside the play area, a community fāle was also built, reflecting the aspirations of the local Pasifika community, along with an outdoor education area, a BMX track and shared paths and access ways,
Te Auaunga set a new benchmark for public infrastructure spend by delivering environmental and cultural innovation such as the world-first, collaboratively realised natural playground incorporating principals of Māori play and using found features and natural rock forms (discovered under the concrete) to form features and riffles in the new stream.
The innovative approach also led to the development of the Auckland City Council Healthy Waters Sustainable Outcomes toolkit and delivered social value though the establishment of a Community Action Group.
The Community Action Group contributed significantly to Te Auaunga outcomes and the high level of community kaitiakitanga/guardianship towards the awa/water.
In addition, social outcomes were further progressed by support for a social enterprise nursery, which supplied direct training and employment opportunities to people facing challenges in gaining employment.
Youth from the area were also recruited and trained as construction workers.
Based on figures from the Treasury, supporting 28 people into employment through Te Whangai Trust and the Youth Apprenticeship Scheme generated $820,344 worth of savings to the taxpayer on an annual basis.
Te Auaunga is one of the first large projects delivered under a sustainable social procurement approach completed in New Zealand and provides an exemplar for public sector projects in New Zealand and internationally. Since the project was conceptualised, there has been substantial interest from other public sector organisations, demonstrating that the impacts have gone further than its Mt Roskill home.
Auckland Council, as the largest city in New Zealand, itself spends an estimated $3 billion annually on procurement. The standout results achieved by the social procurement prototype project clearly illustrates its ability to leverage additional benefits for communities at little or no additional cost. The approach developed on Te Auaunga now provides a best-practice template for Council future project planning and delivery.