City Underground Streams

26 March 2013

Next time you are out and about, spare a thought for what’s under your feet.

Children viewing ducks in the Botanic Garden duck pond.

Pipitea Stream flows through the duck pond in the Botanic Garden


There are many pipes carrying water, sewage and gas, as well as electricity, broadband and telecommunications cables - but there are also streams and wildlife.

For instance, while you’re enjoying a coffee in Courtenay Place Park, there may be eels making their way through the stormwater pipes below. Or, every time you’re on Kent and Cambridge terraces, you are walking or driving over Waitangi Stream, where native fish, such as banded kokopu, head upstream to the Town Belt at Prince of Wales Park in Mt Cook. These fish somehow migrate 2.5km up these pipes to reach suitable breeding spots.

The Council’s Our Living City Advisor, Nicci Wood, says that as settlers developed Wellington, streams were gradually piped to improve sanitary conditions and so houses, roads and other infrastructure could be built on top.

“These piped streams are part of the city’s stormwater network. Collectively, we all need to look after the quality of this water as it flows untreated through our streams and into the harbour.”

Stormwater carries pollutants including dog poo, oil, heavy metals, detergents, fertilisers and litter.

The Pipitea Stream, which begins in the hilltop suburbs of Kelburn and Northland, surfaces briefly in the Botanic Garden, flows through the duck pond and is then piped down Tinakori Road, under the motorway and Westpac Stadium and into the harbour at the port.

“We see the duck pond change colour many times over the year, providing a very vivid reminder of why it is so important not to wash paint brushes in the gutter or pour paint or other pollutants down roadside drains,” says Nicci. “This water doesn’t go to a sewage treatment plant - it ends up in the sea where we fish and swim.”

The 90 rain gardens in the central city - planted areas that collect and filter run-off and pollutants - are an example of the sustainable way we are managing the city’s stormwater.

The wetlands in award-winning Waitangi Park are another example. Storm and stream water from Mount Cook, Newtown and Mount Victoria travels through gravel, ponds and native reeds in the park and flows into the harbour cleaner than when it came in.

You can help by always disposing of:

  • paint, oils and other chemicals at the landfill
  • litter and cigarette butts in a bin
  • thinking about where you wash your car
  • picking up your dog’s poo so it doesn’t end up in our waterways.

If you see anyone dumping material down drains or funny colours in streams, report it to Greater Wellington’s environmental pollution hotline 0800 496 734.