32. Mangere Lagoon

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Mangere Lagoon (centre) and Mangere Mountain

Circumnavigating the old “poo ponds” past a cinereria grove, a nesting site and the waste water treatment plant itself.

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Looking Southwest from Mangere Mountain across the lagoon and Puketutu Island on the right

Flying into or out of Auckland Airport, the Mangere waste water treatment plant was a very distinctive piece of the Manukau shoreline. As long as I can remember it’s always been there, this huge eccentric wheel, complete with spokes radiating from a central hub. I wasn’t even aware that it had changed but change it did. Rehabilitation of the area started in the mid 90’s and was “completed” way back in 2004 who knew? You can see a map of the new walking tracks which, with 13 kms of white shell beaches, is New Zealand’s largest marine restoration project.

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Mangere Lagoon with waste water treatment plant in the background

We parked on Wallace road and found our way along a green corridor between fields; it was so overgrown that if it wasn’t for the sign I’d have had no idea we were on the right track. I think there was a dry stone wall involved, as there often is where volcanoes are concerned.

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Bird hide??

 

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First glimpse of the lagoon

Originally this was a castle and moat type volcano with a small scoria cone in the middle of an explosion crater surrounded by a tuff ring. Once breached by the sea the lagoon would’ve filled with silt and mangroves which is how the early European farmers found it -they even let their animals graze right on the cone as it had been joined by a natural landbridge to the surrounding area.

In the 1950’s along came “progress” in the form of a water-based treatment plant for all of Auckland’s biosolids. I don’t think it was supposed to smell but we all know how the sludge ponds stunk. I’m glad that era is over.

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Cinerarias dance in the dappled pine-cast shadows

When we got to the Lagoon there’s a proper, flat wide track and we chose to walk it counter-clockwise. Ok, so that’s not a native planting above but it is pretty to look at and cool to walk under on what was shaping up to be rather a hot day.

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Well, duh! Who would want to?

 

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Volcanoes rock!

 

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Mystery bird nest

These are not the birds I was looking for, so we carried on walking.

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Seabird roost (looking West)

Part way around the lagoon we could’ve followed another track to this bird roosting site and I wish now that I had. I always planned to come back here one day but haven’t yet managed to. On the sea-ward side of the lagoon the track joins up with Ambury Farm in the Northwest and Otuataua Stonefields in the Southwest.

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Water is now free to come and go under the bridge

 

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A couple of pied shags

I also saw a pukeko in the bushes nearby but he darted behind the greenery and wouldn’t show his face again.

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So that’s what they like to call it?

 

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Mangere Mountain seen from Mangere Lagoon

After escaping a 40 year life of sludgery and dodging the threat of reclamation to become just another sports field, Mangere Lagoon has been successfully returned to it’s former glory of a pleasant intertidal lagoon and haven for native birdlife. Hooray!

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Is that tide coming in yet?

 

Some rocks near the end of the walk. I like that boulder!

This walk is quite flat, so would be a great family outing for bird watching and getting back to nature, except maybe not for very young children as they might find a way to end up in the water. Also there aren’t any toilets here.

29. Puketutu Island/Motu-o-Hiaora (Kelliher Estate)

Visited on 13 October

An historic Spanish mission style manor house nestles in the lee of Auckland’s only Western volcanic island and it’s accessible by car! (on one day of the year).

Puketutu Island (left) with Mangere Lagoon (upper right) (Thanks Google Maps)

Puketutu Island (left) with Mangere Lagoon (upper right) (Thanks Google Maps)

When I first decided to visit ALL of Auckland’s volcanoes I was a bit worried about how I was going to get to Puketutu Island (and also Motukorea/Browns Island) as A). It’s an Island & I don’t have a boat and B). It’s not open to the public. Well the first obstacle was easily surmounted as you will see from the satellite image above -there’s a causeway from the mainland out to the Island (called Island Road, no less). Hooray!!

Puketutu Island viewed from Mangere Mountain. Kelliher Estate just below the tall trees.

Puketutu Island viewed from Mangere Mountain. Kelliher Estate just below the tall trees.

The second obstacle was overcome when I happened to drop into a conversation with a friend of a friend about my “ALL the volcanoes” plan but how disappointed I was to not be able to get onto Puketutu Island. Since she works on the Auckland Historic Council (or some such, my memory’s a bit sketchy) she offered to send me an information brochure on Auckland Heritage Week when, for one day of the year, the exclusive Kelliher Estate opens it’s doors to the public. It was as close as I could get to the centre of the island so I was happy.

Rich birdlife to be seen from the Puketutu Island causeway

Rich variation of water birds to be seen from Island Road

I was sceptical that this trip would ever eventuate, but a few months later I held in my hands all the information I needed to plan a Sunday afternoon jaunt to this special place. Somehow I managed to convince 16 friends to also explore this hidden homestead with me.

Entrance to Kelliher Estate

Entrance to Kelliher Estate

The whole Island of Puketutu was part of the Auckland purchase by Captain Symonds who sold it in 1842 to Dr Henry Weekes who’d fallen in love with the place. He soon sold it to Sir John Logan Campbell (founding father of Auckland), who after 43 years sold to Mr John Massey who sold to Mrs Bull. Sir Henry Kelliher bought the Island in 1938 an set about restoring the homestead and planting a diverse range of native and exotic trees. The main driveway plantings owe their lushness to a freshwater spring found by Sir Henry.

First glimpse of Kelliher Estate's Spanish Mission style manor house

First glimpse of Kelliher Estate’s manor house

Spanish Mission House in structured, Spanish-style garden setting

Spanish Mission House in structured, Spanish-style garden setting

Visitors file in through the front door

Visitors file in through the front door…

The rear of the house

…and exit onto the well manicured lawn

Some even pose for photos

Some even pose for photos

For afternoon tea refreshments, Dawsons catering had a large and glamorously decked out marque called the Phoenix Room. The deal of the day was “Devonshire” tea consisting of a scone and tea. However, this was no ordinary scone & tea combo, oh, no, this was the most delicious, melt-in-the-mouth, sweetly soft, springy but filling scone I have ever tasted perfectly accompanied by a Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice tea. I read later that they sold out before 2:30 a fact to which I can personally attest as I was lucky enough to nab the second to last scone.

My shoes of choice for exploring this volcano

My shoes of choice for exploring this volcano

Time to explore the gardens and if I’m honest, this is much more my thing than the house with it’s impressive collections.

The Fale

The Samoan Fale, the coolest part of the garden, under which Sir Henry liked to conduct his farm meetings

A smack of Spanish Moss

A smack of Spanish Moss “jellyfish” wafting in the breeze

This sculpture seems to be competing with the other subtropical plants

This sculpture seems to be competing with the other subtropical plants

A garden sculpture evocative of the Island's volcanic past

A garden sculpture evocative of the Island’s volcanic past

Impact crater meets volcanic crater!

Impact crater meets volcanic crater!

Yet another ubiquitous giant silver ball

Yet another ubiquitous giant silver ball

Taking time to smell the roses

Taking time to smell the roses

The perfect setting for the retelling of an engagement story

The perfect setting for the retelling of an engagement story

A feature of this garden seems to be red flowers against a backdrop of green leaves planted on volcanic rocks.

Bright red vireya rhododendrons surrounded by ferns and lava rocks

Bright red vireya rhododendrons surrounded by ferns and lava rocks

Poor Knights Island Lily thriving in it's scoriaceous abode. (Puketutu crater just beyond the tall trees)

Poor Knights Island Lily thriving in it’s scoriaceous abode. (Puketutu crater just beyond the tall trees)

Subtropical foliage makes a brilliant peek-a-boo spot for my little nephew who was hyped up on Dawson's delicious sausage roll

Subtropical foliage makes a brilliant peek-a-boo spot for my little nephew who was hyped up on Dawson’s delicious sausage roll

After a pleasant afternoon, all too soon it was time to leave. The walk back down the driveway held a few surprises I’d not noticed in my haste to arrive…

A pair of wood pigeons making themselves at home in the crown of a phoenix palm

A pair of wood pigeons making themselves at home in the crown of a phoenix palm

Tell-tale signs of a volcanic past in this mossy corner of the driveway

Tell-tale signs of a volcanic past in this mossy corner of the driveway

Puketutu Hill viewed from the car park

Puketutu Hill viewed from the car park

Finally, the peak! How did I miss this on the way in? There used to be 8 volcanic cones in the Island but now, from what I can tell, there is just this peak and the cone behind it. That’s better than nothing, right?

The Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand volume 61 -1930 describes the Island as “one of the most interesting localities of the district” and that it surely is. Current activities on the Island include quarrying, farming, weddings and functions in the restored homestead and a film location. Dr Bruce Hayward calls Puketutu “the Browns Island of the Manukau”. Read more about the future restoration of the Island as a public park.

 

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I hope to bring my children (or grandchildren, if I have to wait 30 years for the old quarry to fill up with biosolids) here one day in the future when it’s criss-crossed by a cycle path network and we can examine the geological features around the shoreline. It looks like there is a walking track near where Island Road joins up to the Island. I was too tired and improperly shod to explore it this day but I’d love to explore that one day. One day I will be back 🙂 Until then I just dream of this Island paradise.