For the second time this week, dozens of Auckland beaches have been deemed unsafe for swimmers.
According to Auckland Council’s Safeswim website this morning, a number of popular spots, including beaches in the suburbs of Birkenhead, Manly, Ōrākei, Howick and Bucklands Beach aren’t safe to swim in because there is a “high risk of illness from swimming”.
The alerts are classified as red alert, which are triggered by enterococci in the water. The bacteria is common in animal and human faeces, and end up in the water through animal and bird droppings, or from stormwater runoff and wastewater discharges.
A number of long-term alerts remain in place, including in Titirangi Beach, Fosters Bay, Green Bay and Cox’s Bay. This means these spots consistently fault to meet national guidelines.
But Auckland Council is assuring a fix is on the way.
It has earmarked $1.8 billion to improve water quality across the region.
“Although we are still catching up on decades of underinvestment, the council and Watercare are making significant progress in the management of Auckland’s water,” Mayor Phil Goff said.
This included the $1.2 billion Central Interceptor wastewater tunnel which would reduce overflows, he said. It will run underground from Grey Lynn to the Māngere Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Targeted rates would also give Council an additional $452 million to improve water quality, Goff said.
“The reporting also shows that in spite of recent storms, health risks at the vast majority of locations remain very low and overall, water quality across the region is slowly improving.”
But National’s environment spokesperson Scott Simpson criticised the “ongoing polluted state” of Auckland’s beaches earlier this week.
“The fact that as many as one in 10 people swimming at popular Auckland beaches are likely to become ill highlights the just how polluted those beaches are,” Simpson said on Monday.
“The sad thing is, people are missing out on their chance to swim during the peak summer holiday season yet again.”
A red alert indicates there is a more than two per cent chance someone could become ill from swimming in water.
There are currently no black alerts, which are triggered when water has been directly contaminated by human faeces and carries a “very high risk” for swimmers’ health.
On Monday, following heavy rain, beaches around the suburbs of Howick and Bucklands Beach, St Heliers, and beaches around Titirangi and Blockhouse Bay were deemed unsafe to swim in.