Te Auaunga Awa (Oakley Creek) park and stream restoration project: an impact evaluation
Source:Auckland Council Research and Evaluation Unit, RIMU
From 2016 to 2019, extensive modifications and upgrades were undertaken on Te Auaunga Awa (Oakley Creek) Auckland, between Sandringham Road and Richardson Road, through Walmsley Park and Underwood Park. These upgrades saw the transformation of the waterway from a concrete-lined, fast-flowing culvert to a naturalised, meandering stream replete with native planting. A central focus of this upgrade was stormwater and flooding management, as surrounding properties were known to flood following large rain events.Significant social and cultural dimensions to the design of the upgrade emerged through engagement with mana whenua, the establishment of a Community Advisory Group and several innovative social procurement processes.
To understand the impact of these changes, Auckland Council’s Research and Evaluation Unit (RIMU) has published a suite of reports documenting the upgrades to Te Auaunga Awa (Oakley Creek). The social and cultural dimensions were analysed in an earlier report (Allpress 2016a; also, 2016b), as were the social procurement outcomes (Field et al. 2017). This report discusses the results of observation counts and intercept surveys of Walmsley Park users before and after the upgrades.
This study found changes to the way Walmsley Park is used since the upgrades. The observation counts identified a significant increase in everyday usage, notably:
- increase in the number of children in Walmsley Park, especially on weekends
- weekday increase in walking
- weekend increase in cycling.
The intercept survey collected information on respondents’ reasons for visiting Walmsley Park and their perceptions of the park. Responses to the latter question were gathered on a five-point ranking scale. Respondents were given the opportunity to provide open-ended, short answer responses.
An important finding was the changes to how people visited Walmsley Park. In 2016, over 60 per cent of respondents lived within 10 minutes of the park. In 2019, following the upgrades, 45 per cent of respondents lived within a 10-minute walk of the park. Notable increases in people walking 11 minutes or more to Walmsley Park, suggesting they may have travelled by bike or car, were also identified. These changes suggest more local residents using Walmsley Park, and more people coming to visit the park as a destination in itself.
Another important finding was the impact of the upgrades on respondents’ perceptions of the importance, satisfaction and pride in the park. Responses to the 2016 and 2019 surveys show that respondents considered the park to be important. However, following the upgrades, satisfaction with Walmsley Park increased by eight per cent, and pride increased by 25 per cent. Respondents’ perceptions of 12 facilities within the Walmsley Park also remained steady or increased, while perceptions of creek health showed a substantial increase (30%), as did interest in volunteering to help maintain the creek (17%). For the 2019 respondents who had used Walmsley Park prior to the upgrades, nearly 90 per cent stated they considered the park much better, and 69 per cent stated they were using the park more.
Finally, the 2019 short answer questions focused on perceptions of the changes to Walmsley Park. When asked whether the park was better or worse than before the upgrades, responses were overwhelmingly positive with key themes including the generation of positive effects and feelings (n=36) and a more attractive environment to be in (n=30). Similar themes were generated from the question about the park being used more/less. The most significant theme was that Walmsley Park was now more enjoyable (n=37) and that it was better for exercise (n=24).
Auckland Council technical report, TR2020/007