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The catchment

Current situation

The Mangakotukutuku Stream catchment originates in agricultural land south of Hamilton before entering the southern suburbs of Glenview, Bader, Melville, Sunnyhills and Fitzroy, and merging with the Waikato River opposite Hamilton Gardens. Mangakotukutuku translates into English as "stream of the native tree fuchsia", providing some insights into the ecological values of this gully network in days gone by (see an aerial photo of the catchment today).
Total area of the Mangakotukutuku catchment is 2295 ha, made up predominantly of rural land (about 70% of catchment area) followed by residential areas, and much smaller amounts of recreational, community, industrial and commercial land (Tonkin & Taylor 2001). Of the rural land, 298 ha in the Peacockes area is designated for future urban development. Around one-third of the catchment area is impervious (i.e., roads, car-parks, roofs, etc. which do not allow rainfall infiltration). This is the second lowest impervious area of 15 Hamilton City catchments reported on by Tonkin & Taylor (2001). The Mangakotukutuku catchment has low levels of industry and commercial activity compared to other urban catchments, such as the Waitawhiriwhiri that receive high loads of contaminants from industry (Hickey et al. 2001), and there are no legacy effects such as historical landfills like those present in the Waitawhiriwhiri and Kirikiriroa. As a result of all these factors, the Mangakotukutuku catchment is much less impacted by human activities than other  catchments of streams flowing through Hamilton. Tree fuchsia in flower

A total of 34 km stream has been mapped in the Mangakotukutuku catchment, but there are also many more unmapped tributaries present. Around half of the mapped stream length occurs within the city boundary, representing about 13% of mapped stream length in Hamilton City. The stream has three main branches that flow through gullies for most of their length, including several schools, council parks and other public land (see map). The Rukuhia (left) branch originates as drains in Rukuhia Swamp before flowing through Melville and Glenview and joining with the middle branch in Sandford Park. The Te Anau (middle) branch drains developed peatland and rolling farmland. This branch flows past Te Anua Park, with a side-stream passing through Fitzroy Park, before entering Sandford Park. The Peacockes (right) branch drains agricultural land in the Peacockes Road area designated for future development in the Structure Plan, and enters Sandford Park through a culvert under Waterford Road.

A total of 15 stormwater outlets is located in the Mangakotukutuku catchment; most of these (11) have diameters of less than 300 mm (Tonkin & Taylor 2001). Diameters of the other outlets range from 300-600 mm to greater than 900 mm.  In addition, there is an unknown number of informal residential stormwater pipes discharging to streams in the catchment. 

Recent history

When Māori were displaced from the area by British forces, the land was allotted to militiamen in 1864 in lots of 50 acres or more, with the best land (non-swamp mineral terraces) going to higher ranking men. These settlers inherited a landscape of scrub. Bracken on mineral terraces was presumably regenerating from pre-existing Māori agriculture, which included wheat crops and flour mills. High flax grew in and around the sluggish swampy creeks of the gullies. The Rukuhia Swamp supported a mix of sphagnum moss, raupo, flax, cabbage tree and manuka. Kahikatea apparently fringed the swamp and manuka grew tall and thick in response to early efforts at swamp drainage. What millable trees were present at settlement were felled by 1880. Early attempts by European settlers at agriculture achieved little more than subsistence production in most cases, and economic depression added to the troubles of farmers in the 1880’s. Many abandoned their allotments chasing gold in the Coromandel. A small peat lake adjacent to Hall Rd is a small reminder of the former wetland system.

Increased understanding of the soil deficiencies of peat soils allowed renewed efforts at farming of Rukuhia Swamp between 1900 and 1914. Phosphate and large additions of lime and potash were necessary for grass growth. The swamp vegetation was slashed and drains dug before burning the slash and planting grass seed. The area started taking on a predominantly agricultural appearance by 1914. Farming the peat was, and still is, an expensive undertaking, with high maintenance costs and many pitfalls (peat shrinkage, peat fires, stock losses, high fertilizer requirements). At some point a flour mill was constructed on the Mangakotukutuku Stream a short distance below Ohaupo Road (maps from Raynes 1988 book indicate a few hundred metres downstream). For a while the name “Mill Stream” was used for the Mangakotukutuku. There was also a weir associated with the mill.

The water from drained swamp land was directed to various surrounding watersheds (including the Waipa). The Ruku farm (2,299 acres) was purchased by the government in 1952. This large block, located south of Collins Road (east end), was largely swamp (manuka, sphagnum) at the time of purchase. New drainage was put in, with some remnants of earlier attempts at drainage pre-existing. Water was originally drained to the Waitawhiriwhiri Stream, because the underlying mineral layers sloped to that watershed. But complaints of flooding in Dinsdale were addressed by changing the diversion (to the Mangakotukutuku Stream in 1965 (possibly through the Houchen Road culvert). A flood detention dam was constructed on the Ruku block in an effort to stabilise flows to the Mangakotukutuku Stream (on Houchen tributary presumably - no such structures are apparent protecting the mainstem). The deep gullies were expected to handle the extra water without increased residential flooding.

The 1960’s were also when urban development took off in the Glenview area. New housing in Tomin and Saxbys Road appeared in 1965. The gullies were refused as reserve contributions by the council at the time, instead requiring flat land that was more suitable for recreation. Some early residents remarked on large quantities of fill used to “build-up” (presumably by infilling) the gullies. For example, 4,000 cubic yards of fill from Chinamens Hill was used behind Tomin Road and Greta Street. At the time of urban development, the gullies were apparently dominated by blackberry, honeysuckle and wattle.

See Map of the area at the turn of the century

Compiled by Thomas Wilding with reference to:
   Raynes N 1988 (2nd ed.). South of West Hamilton–a history of early European settlement of the Rukuhia District 1864-1914. Publ. N. Raynes, R.D. 2 Rukuhia.
   Bunting PA 1979. The development of the Rukuhia Swamp, 1878-1979. Hamilton Teachers College.
   Glenview community oral history project. 1994. Hamilton Public Libraries.

What are the implications of these changes for stream restoration?  Read more...

See some old photos of Mangakotukutuku Stream in Sandford Park:

Pre-European history 

Borrow pits and other archeological features indicate that the Mangakotukutuku area has a rich Māori  history and includes a number of pa sites. In the Peacockes area, for example, there are three pa sites: Whatukoruru Pa located between two arms of a gully now surrounded by private land, another pa site adjacent to the Glenview Club, and a third site in the Stubbs Road area. Many people lived around the pa and were involved in extensive farming activities. Freshwater springs (puna) in the gullies were used for ceremonial purposes and were also important sources of water for food preparation.

Please let us know if you have any more information on the history of Mangakotukutuku Stream

Geological history and the formation of gullies

Hamilton City is located in a basin comprising sedimentary materials, primarily of rhyolitic and pumice sands, silt, peat and volcanic ash. These sediments were laid down by the ancestral Waikato River. Around 15,000 years ago, the Waikato River started to cut down through these sediments, creating its present channel and exposing springs along the river banks. These springs undermined the river banks and caused slips, eventually eroding their way inland and giving rise to the complex network of streams flowing through steep-sided gullies such as the Mangakotukutuku.

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