Rewi’s Last Stand

Proposed Waitakere Gateway Path

Is it time we linked Titirangi Village and Atkinson Park with the Waitakeres?

At the same time, some of the significant history of the area could be recognised. Back in the 30’s Mt Atkinson and the first section of Scenic Drive with its show Kauri were things people came to see.

Watercare are proposing building a huge Water Treatment plant that would block the Clark Bush track and be in the way of the view over the Manukau. If we want to act on this it would need to be now.

The council already have a reserve for a path down from Mt Atkinson – basically all it would take is to build some stairs.

Waitakere Gateway Path

Connecting the Waitakeres with the city

Waitakere Gateway Map

  1. Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery: Links to public transport and the Manukau harbour via Atkinson Park
  2. Soldiers Memorial Walkway
  3. Mt Atkinson Scenic Reserve – extensive views of Auckland City and Manukau Harbour
  4. Stairs via existing council reserve (proposed)
  5. Historic Clark’s Kauri – estimated to be 1000 years old, largest in Auckland urban area?
  6. Existing Clark Bush track
  7. Exhibition Drive track – historic walkway linking to Arataki Visitors Centre and The Hilary Trail

Titirangi Water Treatment Plant Expansion – We need your help

Watercare are planning a huge expansion of the Huia Water Treament Plant in Titirangi. You’ve probably heard about them trying to put this in Oratia. Those guys have Watercare’s attention and appear to have fought back successfully – now it’s our turn. If we don’t give feedback before May it is possible they will use special legislation to just go ahead with this.

We don’t want a plant of this scale in Oratia OR Titirangi. We want Watercare to have consideration for people and the environment and do some better engineering to come up with a better solution.

If you have any doubts about this or are not fully informed please write a quick email to Watercare immediately. They make a decision in May.

In combination with the Waitakere Ranges Combined Residents and Ratepayers Group, we have requested an urgent review of the process they have followed so far. Here’s the press release. So far Watercare have not responded so we need your help to make them listen.  There are other practical options outside of the two Titirangi and two Oratia sites that they have they have ‘shortlisted’.

Watercare’s 3D drawings of Manuka Rd site
One of the two proposed Titirangi options for the Huia Water Treatment Plant Expansion. For scale reference the two above ground reservoirs next to Exhibition Drive will each be 60m diameter.

Just for reference, here’s a diagram of how big it would be if it was placed in Titirangi Village. Don’t laugh – South Titirangi Rd was one of the sites their site selection software originally chose.

Proposed Huia Water Treatment Plant Expansion – superimposed on Titirangi Village for scale reference

Click the links below for more info:

Huia WTP Expansion – Our concerns

Huia WTP Expansion – Q & A

Huia WTP Expansion – Other Options

Expanding this plant is a one in a hundred year decision. It is important they get it right.

A.D. Mead

I’m not sure if Arthur Mead actually lived in Titirangi, but he made such a contribution to the area that he must be included in our history. He started out surveying and design on the Upper Huia and Upper Nihotupu dam projects, came up with the idea for the Huia Aqueduct, and was later the city Waterworks Engineer for many of the years when the Waitakere scheme was developed.

As well as all of this, he was a love of tramping and the outdoors. He developed the earliest maps of the tracks in the Waitakeres and was the secretary and supervisor of the Auckland Centennial Memorial Park (now Waitakere Ranges Regional Park). Meads Wall in Ruapehu National Park is named after Arthur and his brother.

AD Mead

Arthur was also a recognised botanist and won the Loder Cup in 1972. The cup was to “encourage and honour New Zealanders who work to investigate, promote, retain and cherish our indigenous flora.”  The reason for his win was described:

Mr Mead played an active role in the preservation of the Waitakere and Hunua watersheds. He ensured restriction of access and introduced other measures to safeguard the catchments, but he also encouraged the establishment of tracks and lookouts so those interested in these valuable forest areas could make use of them for study and recreation. Mr Mead also urged the establishment of the Auckland Centennial Memorial Park Board which by 1972 managed 14,000 acres of hill forest.  He regularly led nature groups and societies into the Park and helped with the building of tracks. He also helped develop the Tongariro National Park. As an author he published a description and check list of Waitakere native flora, contributed papers to the Journal of the Polynesian Society, and being especially interested in the Maori and European history of the area, wrote a handbook on the Wanganui River.

In his book The Waitakere Ranges and their Forest Parks, Arthur wrote about Scenic Drive. He describes the end near Titirangi:

The road now rises easily and on the right a parking space provides a view over the Lower Nihotupu dam and the Manukau Harbour. Shortly beyond this the strip of Park land on the left comes to an end, and the Scenic Drive is bordered by private property till it reaches the Nihotupu filter station approaching Titirangi. On this portion of the Drive are some fine homes planned with regard to retaining as many native trees as possible in their grounds, giving a park-like effect. Between the filters and the Titirangi township centre, the Drive has the Mt Atkinson Park on the left, and on the right a block of Centennial Park land donated by the Clark family.

The Instititute of Professonal Engineers created the Arthur Mead Award in his honour. It recognises projects that protect or enhance the environment.

The Huia Aqueduct

When driving down Woodlands park road from Scenic Drive, you might have noticed what looks to be a very expensive footpath. It turns out it’s actually the historic Huia Aqueduct (or conduit), built in the 1920s, but still supplying all the water that feeds into the Huia Water Treatment Plant.


The aqueduct was the idea of Arthur Mead, later city Waterworks Engineer for many years. Early on in his career he was sent into the Waitakere Ranges to work on the surveying and design of the Upper Huia and Upper Nihotupu dams. He came up with the idea of an aqueduct that would run all the way from Piha, south to Whatipu and Huia and then into the city, collecting water from all the streams along the way.

This never went ahead as his supervisors decided that it was better to focus on the bigger supply that the Hunua scheme would eventually bring. A couple of short sections were built at the time of construction of the Upper Huia Dam. The Huia Tunnel Aqueduct runs 1200m between the Huia and Nihotupu valleys. The Huia Conduit is a 2.4km reinforced concrete box structure that is partly tunneled and partly above ground – including some bridged sections to cross streams.

NZ Herald 25th June 1926
Huia Aqueduct During Construction
Huia Aqueduct During Construction

The route of the conduit section is through private property and Watercare land below Exhibition Drive, around the back of Waima.

Huia Aqueduct
Huia Aqueduct route from Mackies Rest to Huia Water Treatment Plant

Eventually all the other dams were connected to the aqueduct. The Lower Huia is pumped 100m vertically to join the Upper Huia water feeding into the top of the tunnel section. Water from the Lower Nihotupu dam is pumped 113m vertically to join at Mackies Rest. Part way along the Exhibition Drive track, the Upper Nihotupu water now also feeds in.

In 1999 Watercare won the Arthur Mead award for upgrading the Aqueduct. The award is presented by the Institute of Professional Engineers for projects that protect or enhance the environment.

Sadly, another 18 years on the now 90 year old aqueduct is now due for replacement.

Huia Aqueduct April 2017

The Exhibition Drive Pipe

The pipe that runs along the Exhibition Drive track may look like a historic relic but, despite being laid in 1912 and in poor condition, most of it is still in use taking all of the water from the Upper Nihotupu dam.

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The pipe is actually the replacement of an earlier Emergency supply pipe known as the Auxiliary Supply which roughly followed the same route. In the late 1890s Auckland’s water supply was mostly from Western Springs. Quickly increasing usage (partly due to the introduction of flush toilets) meant water severe water shortages for several years. It got to the point where the water was being turned off at night.


The route of the pipe from the Upper Nihotupu dam (shown as the thin yellow line to the south of Scenic Drive). Some of the last section along Exhibition Drive has now been bypassed by feeding into the Huia Aqueduct.

There were already plans to build dams in the Waitakere and Nihotupu valleys, but it was decided that urgent action was required. A simple solution took water from wooden dams in Nihotupu Stream and Quinn’s Creek down a thin wrought-iron pipe into the city via Smyth’s saddle. The failed Titirangi Reservoir was part of this project. The track quickly cut to run the pipe was ‘tortuous’ and subject to continued damage due to slips.  Incredibly part of this original pipe is still in use, now as a local supply pipe along Scenic Drive, supplying water to Titirangi Village.

Emergency Pipe
The portion of the 1901 ‘Emergency’ pipe still in use, from Smyth’s saddle to Titirangi Village

The original pipe was too unreliable and was also too small for the planned Nihotupu dam so in 1912-13 it was replaced with a much heavier and lager cast iron pipe. They made the route shorter by digging tunnels through the spurs, which also made it more resistant to damage from landslides. As the pipe was so heavy a tramway was built to make construction simpler. Part of this was later used in the construction of the Nihotupu Dam and for maintenance of the pipe. The rainforest express tourist train ran along the tracks until the risk of landslides became too big.

Pipes ready for laying, next to the break-pressure tanks at Smyths Saddle. NZ Herald 5th February 1913
Official visit to the site of pipe construction. NZ Herald 5th February 1913

The tracks originally went from Titirangi Village all the way up to the dam. Along the first section, the tracks were removed and the road widened to become the very popular tourist drive, Exhibition Drive. When the Nihotupu Water Treatment Plant was decommissioned, the last section of pipe was bypassed by a short pipe to feed into the Huia Aqueduct. This can be seen partly along the Exhibition Drive walk.

Along with most other pipes that form part of the Waitakere Scheme, the Nihotupu pipeline is due for replacement. Luckily tunneling technology has come along way since 1900 – even in 1946 when the Hunua scheme was started, a 5.6km tunnel was dug. Hopefully not too much of the forest of Waitakere Ranges Regional Park will need to be removed.