November 29, 2023

Waitematā Harbour rāhui starts to lift, but some areas still contaminated

Aucklanders have been urged to avoid swimming or collecting kaimoana from the rāhui area (in red), as these areas are still contaminated by human sewage.

The rāhui over Waitematā Harbour is beginning to lift, as water quality returns to safer levels following a collapsed wastewater pipe four weeks ago.

Auckland Council on Friday said green ticks are returning to many beaches across central Tāmaki Makaurau.

The rāhui is still in effect at: 

  • Ōkahu Bay
  • Te Tinana/Wilsons Beach
  • Judges Bay
  • St Marys Bay; and
  • Masefield Beach Reserve at Curran Street.

Aucklanders had been told to avoid the harbour after a tomo [earthen hole] formed above the Ōrākei Main Sewer on September 27.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei originally placed a rāhui [temporary prohibition] over Waitematā and the council also issued black alerts on its Safeswim website.

Hundreds of litres of raw sewage had been spilling into the harbour every second.

Marama Royal, chair of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust, said the rāhui was placed on the harbour to protect the entire Waitematā.

“We thank Aucklanders for respecting rāhui areas as it gives the harbour a chance to recover,” she said.

“As tangata whenua of central Auckland and upper Waitematā, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei have a duty as kaitiaki to look after the mauri or life force of the Waitematā as well as to keep our communities safe.

“We will continue to keep the rāhui under review – the health of the Waitematā and of all who enjoy using it are paramount to our iwi.”

Auckland’s Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson also thanked the community for their understanding while Watercare built a bypass sewer.

“This was a distressing situation with major impacts on recreational users of our Waitematā beaches and waterways, as well as wider impacts for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei who placed a rāhui to allow time for the harbour to recuperate and be safe to use,” she said.

Simpson also acknowledged the impact the sewage discharges have had on organisations and businesses.

“I really want to thank Watercare for their efforts to start to fix the Ōrākei Main Sewer, knowing that public health and safety is paramount.”

The public is urged to keep checking the Safeswim website to make decisions on where it’s safest to swim.

“Following rainfall, swimming water conditions can change quickly,” a council spokesperson said.

Swimming is not advised in areas with a black alert due to extremely poor water quality.

Some beaches outside the rāhui area still have black alerts including:

  • Chapman Strand
  • Taipari Strand
  • Te Atatū
  • Point Chevalier
  • Herne Bay
  • Home Bay; and
  • Sentinel Road Beach

Auckland Council will keep monitoring water quality and update the safety pins on Safeswim accordingly.

Fishers and people gathering kaimoana from the Waitematā should not collect any seafood from contaminated areas for at least the next 28 days, the council said, as it could make people seriously ill.

More public health advice can be found on the Auckland Regional Public Health Service website.

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