Local environmental groups have applauded Mayor Phil Goff’s commitment to clean up streams such as Meola Creek and Oakley Creek and protect our harbours and beaches.
Mr Goff has signalled a special rate targeted at improving water quality – costing about $1.70 a week for an average household. Most of that will go towards speeding up the $1 billon-plus Central Interceptor pipeline through Mt Albert to the Mangere wastewater treatment plant, reducing overflows into the Waitemata Harbour within 10 years – 20 years earlier than planned.
The initiative will help to stop stormwater laden with pollutants and sewage from pouring into the Waitemata every time we have a decent downpour.
A collective of Auckland environmental organisations, led by two local groups, has welcomed the mayor’s commitment, calling it “a bold vision for a cleaner, safer future for all Aucklanders”.
Spokespersons for the organisations, Elizabeth Walker (St Lukes Environmental Protection Society), Bronwen Turner (Manukau Harbour Restoration Society) and Wendy John (Friends of Oakley Creek Te Auaunga), say Auckland has waited 50 years for such significant action on reducing the pollution.
Millions of cubic metres of combined sewage and stormwater overflow into central Auckland’s parks, streams and harbours (and in many cases private properties) every time Auckland gets significant rain, say the three groups.
Meola Creek catchment, for example, has more than 100 overflows a year of sewage and stormwater containing biological, chemical and heavy-metal contaminants – attacking biodiversity and posing dangers for people and pets.
“Because the pollution from overflows moves quickly around the Waitemata and Manukau harbours and remains in the harbours for extended periods, the ability for Aucklanders to safely enjoy the harbours and streams has been highly compromised for decades,” says a statement from the three groups.
“For example, the new Judges Bay beach development makes it a lovely inner-city place for families to swim and enjoy over summer, but like Pt Chevalier, Onehunga Lagoon and St Heliers Bay beaches, it is unsafe for swimming on far too many occasions.”
The organisations have outlined goals and steps for stream and harbour cleanup such as separating stormwater and sewage, treating stormwater before it reaches harbours, and recharging aquifers.
Separating stormwater and sewage reduces peak loads currently causing treatment bypasses at the Mangere Treatment Plant. Improved treatment of stormwater is particularly important as a base for Auckland’s response to expanding development and future climate-change impacts.
“There will be some who oppose such expenditure,” says Ms Turner, “but these voices cannot be allowed to drown out those who have worked for many years for cleaner fresh water streams and harbours. The proposed improvements will significantly enhance Auckland’s living quality for everyone and we encourage Aucklanders to support them.”
Full backgrounder on the wastewater issue