Work on a $28 million plan to beautify part of the Onehunga foreshore starts today after a Maori blessing and celebration at the Manukau Cruising Club.

Over the next two years, 6.8ha of parkland will be created through reclamation, west of the SH20 motorway.

Rocky headlands, beaches, a new boat ramp, carpark and picnic areas will be formed and a cycle bridge built to link Onehunga Bay Reserve.

NZ Transport Agency is putting in $18 million and Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board $10 million.

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Board chairwoman Leila Boyle said the result would make Onehunga a better place to live.

Manukau Harbour Restoration Society chairman Jim Jackson said the project was the first of a long-term redevelopment programme.

"It is the turning point in getting greater recognition of New Zealand's second-largest harbour."

The project does not involve removal of transmission lines and pylons.

Iwi and public health officers were worried about people bathing in a polluted bay. Auckland Council's stormwater team is testing drains discharging into the bay for sewage pollution due to cross connections, leaking waste pipes or waste water overflows.

One drain was cleaned up in April but a second stormwater pipe which serves a bigger area is taking more time to pinpoint all sources of contamination.