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Auckland’s shit beaches

Written By: - Date published: 11:10 am, January 23rd, 2017 - 31 comments
Categories: accountability, Conservation, sustainability, water - Tags: , , ,

Not meant as a general criticism. Auckland has lovely beaches. When they aren’t drowning in shit that is – Dirty water: Swimmers warned off beaches

Swimming has been banned at 10 Auckland beaches this summer because of worsening pollution from human and animal wastes.

Permanent signs declaring that the water is not safe for swimming went up at the start of summer at Laingholm and Wood Bay near Titirangi, the north and south lagoons at Piha, and at the Bethells Beach lagoon – all popular swimming spots for children too young to swim in the wild west coast surf.

Wastewater biologist Gemma Tolich Allen, the Manukau Harbour Restoration Society’s scientific adviser, said overflowing septic tanks and wet-weather “bypass” spills from the Mangere sewage treatment plant had been polluting the Manukau for decades.

The new water quality data comes the day after the Weekend Herald reported that raw sewage is being flushed into the Waitemata Harbour every time the city gets more than 5mm of rain.

The worst overflows in Sandringham spill more than 100 times a year “in the order of 1 million cubic metres” a year, equivalent to three days of throughput at the Mangere treatment plant.

This is a shameful look for our country’s biggest city. But then, much of the rest of the county is the same. We’re trashing vitally important resources – our water, our health, our heritage, and our “image”. How bad does it have to get before we act?

31 comments on “Auckland’s shit beaches”

  1. Ad 1

    Was a whole bunch worse before Watercare closed the in-harbour sewerage system and pulled it all on land. Puketutu Island – which is where the old ponds on the Manukau were sited – is now the home of the largest commercial composting complex in New Zealand, and is also being reforested with soil that includes aged and mixed biosolids as a percentage.

    • Andre 1.1

      Yep, When I first moved to Titirangi 17 years ago and went down to the Manukau Harbour beaches, there were Pacific oysters and fuck all else. Now there’s fewer oysters but a variety of things clinging to the rocks and lots of critters scrambling for cover if you lift a rock.

  2. Tamati Tautuhi 2

    Goff needs to jump on this straight away the quality of water used by the general public is critical especially if it poses a public health hazard?

  3. The shitty sites: ” all popular swimming spots for children too young to swim in the wild west coast surf.”
    Pretty sad.

    • Stunned Mullet 3.1

      Lots of infill housing and no adequate sewerage systems – what could possibly go wrong ?

  4. Tamati Tautuhi 4

    Auckland Town Planners got it wrong again, it makes you wonder where our rates money goes. Professional bludgers and paper shufflers?

    • Sacha 4.1

      Not the town planners, but decades of C&R councillors skimping on maintenance so they could keep rates down for them and their chums. Now the result has become more noticeable.

      This has been officially recognised as a huge problem for the region to fix for many years now. Doing it faster would require access to different funding models, which is part of the negotiation with central govt connected with implementing the unitary plan.

      • Wayne 4.1.1

        Sacha,

        It has been quite a few years since C & R councillors had any real control over what is now Watercare. At least 20 years. So it is a bit hard to pin the blame on them.

        In the last 20 years the Mangere treatment plant has been completely replaced. So has the North Shore facility. There has been a huge amount spent over the last 20 years on various main trunk sewer tunnels and in North Shore the outfall.

        Our population has increased by around 60% in the last 20 years, which is probably the most significant factor.

        Yet, at least going by where I live, North Shore and specifically Ngataringa Bay, sea water quality has improved over the 20 year period.

        So I reckon the two latest items in the Herald are a bit of a beat up. No real context given at all of the changes over time

        By the way I support Mayor Goff’s proposals on this. I am happy to pay a bit more in my water rates to improve water quality. It brings existing plans forward a few years. Which is good.

        • Sacha 4.1.1.1

          We’re talking much longer, back to the 60s or so. Decade after decade of short-sighted penny-pinching and ignoring the state of the system. Like refusing to re-paint your house regularly and then acting all surprised when replacing the rot costs a whole lot.

          Yes, your water on the Shore has improved because investment there finally caught up in recent years.

          And yes, big population increases *before* the infrastructure is built is a long-term Auckland malady. We need different funding tools to change that.

          The reality is there are now ten beaches/lagoons that people are no longer allowed to swim in. That is just not good enough. No beat-up there.

          • mickysavage 4.1.1.1.1

            Yep it is the inner city areas with antiquated systems that are worst.

            And like our streams our beaches and lagoons should be swimmable. Not wadeable.

        • Jenny Kirk 4.1.1.2

          Yes Wayne – when I was on the North Shore City Council we decided to spend up large on getting the sewage out of the stormwater, and off the beaches. It was a major undertaking and it worked (sort of – the engineers built major holding tanks for heavy stormwater events – to cope with the extreme rainfalls). So Nth Shore beaches should be reasonable – except for the Wairau River outlet.

          That’s not a beat-up in the Herald. For once, they’re reporting facts. We, Nth Sh councillors often felt very irritated that Auckland City councillors (as they were then) were so lackadaisacal about the amount of sewage going into the Waitemata during storm events, and other times. They did clean up Mangere harbourside – after huge publicity – and fix Puketutu Island.

          But then along came supercity and Watercare, and they’re a bit behind the ace ball on this matter, to say the least. So maybe turning Auckland into a supercity wasn’t such a super good idea afterall.

          • Wayne 4.1.1.2.1

            Jenny,

            Fair point. I do acknowledge the work you and all the North Shore city councillors did on sewage treatment. As you know among the very last actions of the Council was the construction/rebuild of the major connector from Devonport, the new outfall and the collector tanks for the Wairau creek.

            They are the reasons for Ngataringa Bay being better than it used to be.

            Watercare did not used to spend as much on sewage, but were focussing more on water supply. But they have done a lot over the last ten years; completely new Mangere plant and major upgrades of the main sewage tunnels. But obviously more has to be done.

    • saveNZ 4.2

      +1 Tamati Tautuhi – not just them the environment court which grants 99% of all consents and the councils that approve practically every consent… houses are getting bigger and apparently under planning that’s all ok for waste water because it gets caught and goes into the waster water system…. so bigger and more intensive housing… more water caught and being sent through the system.

      The septic tank issue as well, now it’s minimum $13k to put in a new septic tank system and they council requires ‘inspection’ every 6 months… for $300 a pop by private firms. If you connect to waste water it’s gone from something like $500 to $10,000 with water care.

      But like AT – we all all told that this is all great because it’s getting better than the raw sewerage of old – but in my view very slow progress and a lot of money going down the drain (literally) on this one.

      In short everything is being designed for less sustainable and more expensive housing and expecting the ratepayers to pay more rather than examine the entire system and work out something is seriously wrong with the COO structures, the manipulation of the planning process, the government’s tinkering with the environment court to ensure practically all consents are approved and the enrichment and profiteering of the council assets by private or quasi private companies while bleating ‘more money’ – they have had years to sort it out.

      It’s happening at glacial speed because the COO structure is not linked to any sort of accountability and it’s run by corporate neoliberal dinosaurs probably on $600k each screaming poverty as the shit runs into the sea and they post out another glossy leaflet saying how great they are.

      • saveNZ 4.2.1

        In short under Neoliberalism and Water care more waste water is OK as long as they profit from it! They are encouraging more waste water.

        If the government/council and all the other bloodsuckers were serious about waste water then every house would have a grey water system, water tanks from their roof for gardening, larger areas for planing – but no – under neoliberalism and the COO structures, we add more water and then charge more for the problem.

        Under neoliberalism there is zero incentive to solve the problem, the incentive is to profit from it.

  5. Sanctuary 5

    I can’t see why we can’t build a dam at the Manakau heads, pump out the water and voila! The beaches won’t be a problem, and we’ll have 400 square kilometres new housing land!

  6. Keith 6

    There was a theme in councils for years and a popular campaign policy to “Cut rates”. Its ‘my money”, stop wasteful Councillors. The me me me shit we have seen so well under this government. I will add this was very much a standard in the 90’s and into the 2000 and continues today but it doesn’t seem to work as much. Trouble was not enough income equals cut backs on maintenance and worse no upgrades to infrastructure. There is evidence everywhere of this especially in the old Auckland City Council area where voters embraced rate cuts and freezes.

    But its not a coincidence that as most of our waterways in NZ become toxic cesspits that so has Auckland’s beaches. It stinks of no forward planning, just an adhoc mess of populist driven responses by central government.

    Faced with the problem of doing nothing about the housing problems created in Auckland by low interest rates, poor or non existent policy, out of date taxation laws in respect of properties and Nationals biggest own goal, rampant immigration to keep wages frozen, Key’s and now English’s legacy will be pollution.

    Its not just gridlock from the utterly shit non existent planning that is choking Auckland, its sewer from too many people vs not enough investment in infrastructure in a timely manner.

    This represents an entirely predictable situation from a government by polling.

    Populist headless chicken government, take a bow!

    • Jenny Kirk 6.1

      + 100% Keith

    • saveNZ 6.2

      Your falling into the neoliberal argument there, Keith, if you throw more money at it, the problem will go away. Not true, just some simple adjustments to ever bodies homes and planning such as using grey water and self collection of water would help the issue a lot more than higher rates.

  7. Whispering Kate 7

    Totally agree with the housing situation and the total non-activity from the Government to “get some guts” and do something about it. All they can think of is keeping the electorate happy. Little has asked English to join him in an accord to try and tackle the problem and English has said there is no problem. We need more coalition agreements on the hard things that need to be done, all politicians need to step up to the plate and grow some bottle.

    Also the Council simply wastes its money on financing all these festivals each year which are an extravagance especially when there is so much infrastructure needing work. What did the council think would happen with all the infill housing and all the new immigrants coming in and using the existing tired old sewage systems. Filthy Auckland waterways was always going to happen. Goff wants to finance an edifice down on the waterfront, can’t remember what it is – a stadium maybe – just another vanity project. Also junkets overseas should be stopped and Penny’s pet grouch all the money changing hands with contracting out work. What an out and out rort Government and Super City Council both are.

  8. Whispering Kate 8

    Another thing, where I live in Auckland the sides of the roads and along the sides of the motorways the grass is so high and messy and dry as tinder. It will only take a flick of a fag butt out the car window one day and there will be a fire raging everywhere. Why are these jobs being neglected, the place looks a shabby mess. With the high winds and dry conditions they should be done for negligence. The park staff must be down to a skeleton crew to have so much untidiness about. God knows what tourists think of our city, its a disgrace.

    • Wayne 8.1

      Isn’t part of the reason for the longer grass is to have a more natural look. As is the case in France.

      • There are better options for attractive, easily-managed roadsides than “longer grass” though it doesn’t surprise me that grass is the plant of choice in New Zealand. We’ve selected it as our national plant, replacing our previously spectacular forests with it, for the sake of farming.

      • Jenny Kirk 8.1.2

        Wayne – grass isn’t “natural” in NZ – not the sort of grass which needs mowing. Maybe if native grasses and flaxes, etc, were planted that would be a different story – and a totally different look.

    • saveNZ 8.2

      Don’t worry Whispering Kate soon we all the library services will soon be cut, we now mow our own berms (but don’t even think of planting a veggie garden there) and we need higher rates too, because AT, Ports of Auckland and Water Care and all the other COO’s need the money for the stellar job they are doing (sarc) on their $600k salaries.

      More corporate welfare for the big players!!!! That is the neoliberal answer for Councils.

      Next minute, expensive think tank on how to provide affordable housing, after selling off the social housing to pay for the big ticket item COO’s.

      Wait do I hear the cry the councils need more money again, there has been 1 billion wasted already on failed IT for the supercity but not much interest in saving that money or an enquiry of where the money went. Likewise money wasted on council private lawyers getting rich off council contracts and the recent guilty verdict on corruption from AT kickbacks.

  9. Anno1701 9

    These beaches have been dirty for a long time, I knew not to swim at laingholm beach 20 years ago …

  10. tc 10

    A colleague alluded to watercare being at least 2bill under invested in their network back in he day when Banksie was leaning on them to ensure akl cc got its juicy dividend.

    Is it any wonder with this approach that it is what it is. More Infrastructure that’s been sweated for profit instead of maintained and kept with the times so it’s not alone sitting alongside telecom and rail.

  11. Tamati Tautuhi 11

    Sound like Watercare is being milked, if it is a Public Health issue it needs to be sorted asap, evidently Goff is more interested in roads and monuments.

    Public Health should be No 1 priority?

  12. Jimmy 12

    Exactly, clean up your beaches and inlets Auckland, raw human sewage yuck.
    Auckland needs a rate increase, polluter pays!
    We want swimable!

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