I am not going to pretend I'm an experienced camper.

But in my youth, I did go on a few intrepid journeys with friends.

And I can remember that one of the first things you did when you set up camp was find a suitable spot for a toilet.

It had to be reasonably close to the campsite but a suitable distance from the sleeping and eating tents and nowhere near the water. And it had to be of a depth suitable for the number of campers.

Advertisement

Hygiene and sanitation are one of the basic requirements for a community to properly function and yet New Zealand's biggest city is being let down badly on that count.
A Herald investigation has found swimming is banned at 10 popular Auckland swimming spots and seven temporary health warnings have been put up at 72 of the beaches still being monitored - because of human and animal waste contaminating the water.

Whenever Auckland gets more than 5mm of rain, rainwater flows into the shared stormwater pipes and flushes raw sewage into streams or straight into the harbour. These overflows happen at least 12 times a year.

Newsflash, Auckland gets a lot of rain - and the equivalent of four Olympic swimming pools of raw sewage pour into our waterways every single time.
It's appalling. And the problem is not new.

Ten years ago, the Herald reported the water quality of Auckland's rivers and streams were the worst in the country with some very ugly hotspots of pollution.
Many of the region's streams had high concentrations of nutrients and suspended sediments, and high levels of faecal coliform bacteria.

It appears nothing has changed.

I've experienced first-hand the horrors of swimming at inner city beaches.
A few years ago, I decided to train for a harbour swim.

It was my first swim in a wetsuit, the weather was atrocious and my mate and I chose to have our first swim close to home at a Herne Bay beach.

It was an abject disaster.

I felt like the wetsuit was crushing me to death, the waves and the driving rain took what little breath I had after the wetsuit had compressed my lungs and by the time my fingers had hooked around toilet paper and plastic bags and what felt like a hundred tampons, I'd had enough.

It was an absolutely disgusting experience and one I'll never repeat.
I've always thought that if I came into a significant amount of money, I'd love to transform the inner-city streams.

The idea of young kids learning to swim in Cox's Bay or at the Omaru Creek in Glen Innes is an impossible dream right now - although, to be fair, it's not entirely the fault of the modern day city leaders.

In the past, the manufacturers and industrialists in Grey Lynn tipped toxic waste into the streams, using them as natural rubbish removers without a thought of where that waste would end up.

But we know better and we have to do better as a city to preserve our waterways.
The whole point of Auckland is its harbour, its beaches and its waterways.
It's what makes the traffic jams and the roadworks and the crush of people bearable.
The moment you're able to get out onto the water, you get why people live in New Zealand's biggest city.

But as more and more people pour into the city, more and more sewage will be pouring into the harbour unless we get the basics right.

We have an absolute duty to protect the jewel in our crown.

It might be too late for our kids, but it's incumbent upon us to do better for future generations.