Imagine a future where communities can swim in the Whau River, fish from its banks and walk around the water’s edge.

That’s the vision of community groups, councillors and local board members who have come together to form the Whau Coastal Walkway Project and put focus back into the “neglected” area.

The $15 million project includes construction of a 13-kilometre boardwalk beginning early next year, and linking New Lynn’s Olympic Park with the Te Atatu Walkway.

Portage and Waitakere Licensing Trust president and Whau councillor Ross Clow says the boardwalk’s purpose is to encourage communities to take pride in their environment and appreciate the water – not just treat it like a “rubbish tip”.

“We’ve turned our back on the Whau for too long,” he says.

Clow says the river was neglected because council planners did not pay close attention to it in the beginning stages of city development.

Henderson Massey Local Board chairwoman Vanessa Neeson says West Auckland’s waterways have become increasingly polluted since the amalgamation of the Super City.

“It’s about putting our hand up and saying something needs to be done before we reach a point of no return,” she says.

The boardwalk will be a five-year project and is a partnership of Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, and Whau and Henderson Massey local boards.

Environmental groups, including the Whau River Catchment Trust and Eco Matters, are also involved.

Features include seating and tables, viewing and resting areas, artwork and links to residential cul de sacs along the route.

Its 3-metre-wide surface will be suitable for walking and cycling, as well as mobility scooters.

The project will also help form Whau and Henderson Massey Local Board’s Neighbourhood Greenways Plan to provide safe and enjoyable cycling and walking connections.

Whau Local Board chairwoman Catherine Farmer says the project will hopefully bring multiple health benefits as communities use it for exercise.

“Diabetes is a big issue and will continue to be in the future,” she says.

“It will be great if it encourages people to be active.”

Steering group co-chairwoman Iris Donoghue says the infrastructure will be an asset to the area for future generations.

“It will be great for our grandchildren,” she says.

– Western Leader