Before European settlement, the Waihorotiu Stream ran from a marsh (now Aotea Square near the town hall), to meet the sea, where the Guardian Trust Building now sits. From time to time the stream encroached on the course of Queen Street, as defined in Felton Mathew’s 1841 town plan, but in the end it probably determined the real line of Auckland’s main street.
Grog shops and hotels developed along the west bank of the stream and, in the absence of any long-term collective responsibility for sewage works, liquid and solid wastes were discharged directly into it. By 1852, the stream was known as the Ligar Canal (named after the second Surveyor-General) and had become an object of considerable public olfactory abhorrence. Timber walls lined the sides, the swampy sections were filled in, and some attempts had been made to encase it. Collapsed banks were not uncommon and in 1865, Sibbun’s Theatre (later the site of His Majesty’s Theatre) slid into the canal during construction. Queen Street at this time was a track running down the eastern side of the stream.
Piecemeal improvements occurred in the 1860s with the development of some local administrative responsibility for engineering and public health. It appears to have been covered in the 1870s to become the Queen Street sewer. Proper wastewater treatment did not begin until 1914.
It now lays unseen beneath the street as a brick-lined sewer of oval cross-section, intersecting modern concrete pipes