MCC Parks department, in 1995, issued a draft management plan for the development of the reserve. It is interesting to note that the draft plan was entitled Somerville Reserve with Mangemangeroa only in parenthesis. Subsequent documents have used Mangemangeroa as the preferred name which Maori supporters would appreciate. Cattle grazing had seriously opened up the undergrowth of the bush & therefore the first priority was to fence off the bush area along the estuary. The recovery of the bush has been spectacular so that it is now difficult to imagine how it was when the cattle had access.
In the mid 1990’s Betty Harris, Jack McKenzie and his wife Dorothy with friends such as Jim Duckworth &others formed a group to promote action on the MCC Parks Draft plan. We noted that a substantial fund had been created when the Harbour Board became Ports of Auckland & that the annual interest from the fund was to be distributed to the city councils for development of recreation associated with maritime environments. Using these funds, our group, with the support of the Howick Community Board, proposed development of a walkway through the bush along the estuary of the reserve. The proposal was successful & the first stage of the walkway was completed in the year 2000 & opened with great aplomb by Sir Barry in.October of that year.
Around this time, Jack & Dorothy Mckenzie, who had served as secretary & treasurer of our informal group of friends, recommended that we should become an incorporated society. We made the necessary applications under the Companies Act & became incorporated with Alan Riley & Jim Duckworth as President & Vice President
The next major step was the development of the second stage to extend the initial walkway south to the lower end of Chisbury Reserve & from there to Shelly park. Again the Howick Community Board was supportive. Another public meeting was held with Alan la Roche as Chairman and the motion to apply for maritime recreation money was carried with acclamation. In November 2003 the second stage was opened by Sir Barry on a fine spring day. It was interesting to have members of the Nicholas family present. They had originally farmed the open areas of the block. (Now subdivided into sections for large homes.)
In order to continue expanding the bush area we had to seek funding guided by our corporate Rotarian members. By using the technical & practical skills of Graham Falla & associate members of South Auckland Forest & Bird Society we have continued nursery propagation & the planting out of selected areas.
Austen Gate . 20.05.2005
We now look forward to the opening of the 3rd stage of the walkway that will continue the track southwards nearly to the bridge & from there up to Somerville Road to the swing gate adjacent to the cattle yards.
Perhaps it would be timely now to introduce discussion on stage four of the walkway that would extend the track southwards & up the valley to the bottom of Hayley Lane where it would join a small council reserve which reaches down to the high water mark of the estuary.