‘Fallen Robot’, Ronnie Van Hout, Dowse Square.

We share the waterways that run beneath our feet. Across cultures water is a vital part of our sense of common ground and well-being. Common Ground – Hutt Public Art Festival will examine the relationship between the communities of the Hutt and its river Te Awakairangi, streams, springs and aquifer, their history and future. It will recognise that the Hutt provides water to the entire Wellington region, and that how we treat water is one of the most important contemporary issues..

The festival hopes to bring artists together with public, iwi, council, scientists and groups who have been deeply involved with this shared resource. This at a time when the globe is facing significant issues in terms of water quality, sea level rise and the commodification of water. The Hutt’s river and aquifer are some of its most important assets and – with flood protection measures and plans to re-orientate the city more to face the river – present its most significant public challenges.

Through a series of temporary projects we seek to work with others to better understand and respond to our past, present and future.

Common Ground: Groundwater will explore how Hutt City is turning more towards its water – both above ground and below its feet – its care, diverse values, and the issues facing many river cities in times of extreme weather events.

Artesian bore water site, Dowse Square. Image: Mark Amery

Artesian bore water site, Dowse Square. Image: Mark Amery

Scope of the theme
The Hutt supplies the entire Wellington region with water, with catchments including Wainuiomata and Kaitoke and a large aquifer under the valley and harbour supplying the Hutt’s water needs.

Recognising its importance as a place and source of water, in February 2015 Wainuiomata held a water festival at the same time as the inaugural Common Ground Festival.

The Hutt aquifer is visible through two celebrated wells in Petone (with Louise Purvis’s sculpture) and Lower Hutt (at the Dowse Art Museum) and is filled by the Hutt River. A third well from Te Atiawa will soon provide the public with water at Waiwhetu marae near Waiwhetu stream. Meanwhile water from the aquifer comes into the Wellington region’s pipes through a pumping station at Waterloo.

Water for the Wellington region is fluoridated, except in Petone and Korokoro who are supplied from Hutt City Council’s Rahui reservoir. They have historically had an unfluoridated water supply and council asked regional council to continue that arrangement following a public survey in 2000.

2016-04-29 13.36.57The Hutt River has been extensively straightened and has lost much of its historical character. Concerns around flooding has seen the council plan to buy up extensive amounts of property near the Lower Hutt City Centre and engage in extensive new urban design work. At the rivermouth, Hikoikoi is the site of what was a major Ngati Awa pa site. Today, surrounded by public reserve, there is a sand extraction plant, with sand dredged from the river mouth to keep it open and prevent flooding. This is operated by Winstone who sell sand and shingle to the building industry.

Myriad streams are of note in the valley but one of particular note is Waiwhetu, which runs across the flood-plain surrounded by housing and industry. Of deep significance to iwi, it has been known as one of New Zealand’s most polluted waterways and is the subject of extensive restoration.

The Hutt is also home to a notable number of science and technology companies, a number of which are world leaders in their research or use of water. The Hutt is home to GNS Science and Callaghan Innovation. Known for its industry, the Hutt is said to be home to more industrial water jet cutters than in all of Ireland.

For more reading please see this resource page.

Common Ground 2015: www.commongroundfestival.org.nz
Letting Space: www.lettingspace.org.nz
(Recent projects: www.teza.org.nz / www.urbandreambrokerage.org.nz)