My favourite place to visit in Howick is the Mangemangeroa Reserve with its variety of landscapes, including coastal native bush, salt marsh habitat, farmland and a unique estuary.  Such a succession of ecosystems is found nowhere else in East Auckland. I am grateful for work that has been done in the last 20 years to make it such an asset for Howick. In April this year I become the Chairperson of The Friends of Mangemangeroa and it is a privilege to be able to assist in the upkeep of the Reserve for all the community. The history of how we got to have the reserve is a tribute to all those involved and a part of the history of Howick.

In 1984 with Manukau City Council releasing a Structure Plan for the block of land a campaign was started by Betty Harris of Forest and Bird with a submission to Council that the block be purchased for passive recreation. This resulted in the land not being rezoned pending further Council investigations. In 1987, the owner, Archie Somerville requested council rezone the land for residential development. Articles appeared in the Howick and Pakuranga Times in 1987-88 urging people to express their wish for it to be purchased for a reserve.

This resulted in a proposed District Scheme designating the whole coastal block as a reserve. Submissions were made in support by Forest and Bird, ARC and environmental groups including 245 signatures from members of the public in support. There were objections by Archie Somerville and Howick Parklands. A Hearing followed in 1990 which retained the proposed reserve designation. An appeal in 1992 by Archie Somerville resulted in the Environment Court upholding the Council’s decision.

There was jubilation when in 1994 Manukau City Council announced the purchase of the Mangemangeroa block for a reserve for all to enjoy.

In 1995 a draft management plan for the development of the reserve was issued by Council. The first priority to fence off the bush area along the estuary. A group of volunteers was formed to promote action on the Draft plan. The development of a walkway through the bush along the estuary of the reserve was successful with funds being received from a fund created when the Harbour Board became Ports of Auckland and also the Howick Community Board.

The first stage of the walkway was completed and opened in October 2000. At this time the informal group of friends who had been involved with the development of the walkway, formed The Friends of Mangemangeroa Incorporated Society, with founding members, Jack Duckworth, Austin Gate, Jack McKenzie and Allan Riley.

The second stage extended the initial walkway south to the lower end of Chisbury Reserve and from there to Shelly Park. The Howick Community Board was once again supportive. This opened in November 2003. In order to continue expanding the bush area, nursery propagation and planting of selected areas has been continued and the walkway continued the track southwards nearly to the bridge and up to Somerville Road.

2000 was the beginning of interested parties working together to restore the Mangemangeroa Valley and replanting began with 350 plants including puriri, kahikatea, totara, mahoe, nikau and titree. Stage three was the Rotary Loop but before restoration could proceed considerable clearing of weeds was required with help from local
Rotarians and local schools.

In 2019 The Mangemangeroa Valley’s Restoration Plan was adopted by Auckland Council and it is the blue print for the continued restoration of the Reserve. The Friends of Mangemangeroa continue working with Auckland Council and restoration to date has seen the bush edge extended through planting of eco-sourced seedlings for in-planting of canopy trees. Every year we collect seeds from the Reserve which are distributed to volunteer growers to produce what peaked at 8000 plants a year.

To date between six and seven hectares have been restored, with an estimated total of 100,000 plants. Planting days involve the Friends of Mangemangeroa, Forest and Bird, Rotary Clubs, local schools, community groups, Auckland Council staff and contractors.   If you haven’t been to the Mangemangeroa Reserve please take the time to go on one of the many tracks you won’t be disappointed.