• Richard Hills

Protecting our precious places

I am really pleased to see Channel magazine going plastic free from this month and focusing on ways to reduce plastics. These small efforts add up to a massive difference in our attempts to clean up our waterways and environment here on the North Shore.

In the water quality space, we have just increased our infrastructure budget by 50% meaning over $1 billion will be invested in our own water improvement projects here on the North Shore over the next ten years. We recently opened the $30m Fred Thomas Pump Station, which resulted in an immediate improvement to the coastal environment surrounding our community and dramatically cut wet weather wastewater overflows at Shoal Bay. While the old Barrys Point Road facility was able to store up to 520,000 litres, the new pump station can now hold 3.5 million litres and pumps 530 litres of wastewater per second.

Our $12m Hurstmere Road upgrade is another project that will significantly improve water quality. Presently, water runs directly from Hurstmere Road and surrounding streets through drains out to Takapuna Beach. The upgrade will include a series of pipe replacements and rain gardens that catch water and filter out pollutants before they reach the ocean. 

Our Healthy Waters team is currently carrying out investigative work to improve water quality at Takapuna Beach. Smoke and dye testing of the wastewater network has so far revealed no major leaks or direct cross connections contributing to the presence of bacteria in the water, and DNA testing has ruled out animals as a cause. Live results are updated to the Safeswim website. Anyone can access up-to-date information on water quality and conditions at 84 beaches and eight freshwater locations across Auckland at any time.

A team of scientists from the Cawthorn Institute and local science initiative Project Baseline Lake Pupuke are working on water quality at Lake Pupuke. Since 2014, the lake has taken on a brown hue over the summer months. This is caused in part by plants and pest fish such as perch, disturbing the natural ecosystem. In the summer months this accelerates non-toxic algal growth, causing the discoloration. This is not unusual for an urban lake, however Lake Pupuke is unique in that it has no direct inflows or outflows acting as a ‘sink’.

We have increased water quality monitoring at Lake Pupuke from four to eight times per year and carry out monthly e-coli testing. Long-term work at the lake has ramped up this month with the start of a programme of intensive investigative studies, continuing until June. The project will conclude with the recommendation of solutions to restore the water quality of the lake. The factors causing the algal bloom are complex, so this large volume of data is required to ensure our intervention is as effective as possible.

I spent most of my childhood summers at Lake Pupuke, as well as Takapuna Beach, and still do, so this is a very meaningful place for me as well as for the wider community.  We need to preserve it for future generations, so that kids can continue to spend their summers swimming in the lake. Our green spaces and beaches are what make Auckland so special. We need to do all we can to protect them.