Health of Wairau Estuary and Milford Beach causes foul outcry

North Shore beaches are the pride of Auckland, with families from all over Auckland flocking to them throughout summer. Wairau Estuary and Milford Beach are particularly popular due to their perceived safe swimming. But unfortunately, this is not the case. The estuary is one of the most heavily contaminated waterways in Auckland. In fact, Wairau Outlet is the only area North of the Harbour Bridge that has a permanent “No Swim” warning. This is due to human sewage in the estuary, that flows on to cause faecal contamination on Milford Beach.

People want to swim at the beach and estuary without fear of sickness. It should be a jewel in the crown, a place that people and wildlife seek out rather than avoid because it is stinky and toxic. As Mayor Phil Goff said, “Heading to the beach to enjoy the summer is part of our birth right as Aucklanders” (Scoop 23 May 2019).  Milford WEEPS (Wairau Estuary Environment Protection Society) is collecting signatures for a petition; the goal is to make Milford Beach and Wairau Estuary safe for swimming by 2025.
Getting human faeces out of the stormwater and off our beaches is not hard. However, the blunt reality is that the sewage contamination south of the Harbour Bridge is even worse, and appropriately soaks up most of the budget. If we wait for these central isthmus projects to finish, we will wait 50 years. Auckland’s water infrastructure is creaking from decades of under-investment because politicians who promise lower rates get voted in!  
So, what’s the answer? We have two choices:

  • Carry on as we are. Water quality will steadily worsen as ageing pipes spring yet more leaks. Infill housing will increase sewage plus climate change will deliver more frequent and more violent storms to further overload these pipes. Our tamariki and mokopuna will either swim less or get sick more.
  • Reclaim the birthright of “clean green” and pristine waters that we feel sets New Zealand apart from the rest of the world. What about a regional targeted water rate on the North Shore, totally dedicated to fixing our own waterways? If we are prepared to do this, then we may also be able to retain more of the existing Auckland-wide targeted water rate. This would be sufficient to fund meaningful improvements in water quality within the next few years.

Confidence and trust could be enhanced by formation of a North Shore citizen’s body to oversee the best use of this additional rating and to ensure it is spent wisely on the Shore.

Support Milford WEEPS,
Sign the petition
Attend the WEEPS Public Meeting at 6:30 pm on Tuesday February 11th at the Milford Cruising Club, 24 Craig Road, Milford.


Issue 106 February 2020