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Stream or Discharge: Using the Hydrosocial Cycle to Explore the Meanings of the Waimapihi Stream in Te Whanganui-a-Tara-Wellington, Aotearoa-New Zealand

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posted on 2021-12-08, 23:19 authored by McLean, Sylvie

Aotearoa-New Zealand’s urban streams are complex and diverse but have been degraded and neglected for years. For the most part, hegemonic management regimes are technocratic, separating streams into discrete parts, and thus have failed to improve or maintain the state of urban streams. The hydrosocial cycle is a way of exploring streams that takes account of whole systems, flows of water, more than humans, infrastructure and technology, and the social structures and institutions that make up water. The framework has been used to study the impacts of urbanisation on water around the world, including issues around stormwater, wastewater, water supply, and rivers, but it has rarely been used to study buried urban streams. This research uses a case study of the Waimapihi Stream in Te Whanganui-a-Tara-Wellington, Aotearoa-New Zealand to explore how the hydrosocial cycle could be used to understand urban streams. A hydrosocial approach, alongside a more-than-human methodology, demonstrated the varying meanings of the stream, including those of the different phases along its length. Connections to the buried section of the Waimapihi arose through the presence of fish, physical markers, and stories, but there was dissatisfaction with the extent of these. As a result, alternative methods of connection such as windows to the stream and areas of it to be daylighted were explored. A hydrosocial approach enabled an examination of meanings and values of the Waimapihi Stream; to encourage critical analysis of how streams are defined and how they are managed. This demonstrated that the hydrosocial cycle provides a valuable framework for understanding urban streams, as it encompasses the various components that make up urban streams and is flexible enough to explore the diversity between and within them.    Key words: Hydrosocial cycle, more-than-human, stormwater, wastewater, urban streams, Te Whanganui-a-Tara-Wellington, Aotearoa-New Zealand.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Environmental Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Antarctic Research Centre

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Thomas, Amanda; Joy, Mike