• Richard Hills

Working together on water quality 

As I have said many times, improved water quality, clean beaches and streams is a top issue for me and I know it is a top issue for many of you. To help, we need your feedback on the “Our Water Future” strategy document you’ll find at www.akhaveyoursay.nz.

I’ve been swimming at our local beaches all summer with family and friends and even managed a few nights after work, thanks to daylight saving. It’s great seeing how many other residents are out enjoying the water too. It has helped that water quality has been much better this year.

Auckland Council, Watercare and Auckland Transport look after 450 million litres of wastewater and 365 million litres of drinking water per day, with a pipe network of over 23,000km.  Watercares wastewater network consists of 167,264 manholes, 18 treatment plants and 518 pump stations.  

We are surrounded by water and the issues are vast. Auckland consists of 11,117km² of ocean; 16,500km of permanently flowing rivers; 3200km of coastline; 72 natural and artificial lakes.

Despite this, and the frequent rain, we rely on the Waikato to meet our drinking water needs. That supply is finite and we will need to identify a new source by 2050.

It’s not just drinking water. Our stormwater and wastewater strategy is of particular importance to us here on the North Shore, as our ageing infrastructure has contributed to a number of water quality issues – including the Safeswim alerts due to contamination at Takapuna Beach, a problem thankfully seen far less this summer.

We have recently secured the large scale infrastructure projects to tackle the big issues, and embarked on a long running investigative programme to take care of the smaller issues. It is a long process but we are seeing good results.

The $30m Fred Thomas Drive pump station has stopped wastewater overflows to Shoal Bay; Takapuna Beach has had many smaller issues addressed while forensic pipe investigations and private landowners are contacted to fix issues.  Takapuna has been marked swimmable nearly every day this summer and our $12m Hurstmere Road project, due to kick off this year will make a big difference too.

It’s great we have secured the Safe Networks programme expand and spread up the coast into Milford, Castor Bay, and the Wairau Estuary.

We have committed an additional $452m over the next 10 years through the water quality targeted rate which makes $7billion to deliver cleaner harbours, beaches and streams, with $1 billion of that for the Shore.

As a community, we need to develop a strategy that takes care of natural waterways; meets our daily water needs as our population grows; and prepares for future challenges faced by changes in our climate.

Consultation is open on this presently until April 19. I will be attending events throughout the North Shore across the consultation period – please contact me at Richard.Hills@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz for more information. 

In the meantime we call all help by not pouring chemicals or containments into our stormwater drains, reporting issues when we see them and please do not flush wet wipes including those claiming to be ‘flushable’ as they do not break down. Almost half of all blockages are caused by wet wipes, which then overflow sewage into our streams, parks, and streets. No amount of infrastructure spending can counter that issue.