Auckland needs an independent regulator to take a hard line on stormwater mixed with sewage pouring into the Waitemata Harbour, say community groups.
Several groups are banding together under the Stop Auckland Sewage Overflows Coalition to reverse the city's shame of more than one million litres of wastewater and raw sewage pouring into the harbour every year.
This follows a Herald investigation in January showing waste flows from 41 points around the inner city suburbs almost every time it rains.
Water pollution is a buried problem which is now surfacing all over the city
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There are concerns Auckland Council is skimping on stormwater and wastewater problems and matters will get worse with at least 800 new homes due to be built in the next three years in the inner city suburbs.
The coalition and community groups are using consultation on the Government's Clean Water discussion document to address Auckland issues and call for an independent regulator for stormwater.
A submission from the St Lukes Environmental Protection Society says discharges of sediment, human waste, heavy metals and other contaminants into waterways are reaching a crisis point where the public no longer has confidence in Auckland Council's ability to manage the swimmability of city beaches and water quality in creeks.
"Water pollution is a buried problem which is now surfacing all over the city," the submission said.
The society wants New Zealand to follow the United States, UK and Canada and create a Government-funded regulator with coercive powers. It wants the regulator to be independent of Auckland Council, which is the provider and regulator of water services.
In March this year, Thames Water in London was hit with a record fine of about $40 million after huge and prolonged leaks of untreated sewage into the Thames.
Coalition spokesman David Abbott supported the call for a regulator by the St Lukes group, which has been invited to join the coalition.
The coalition said the days of the former Auckland Regional Council "looking over the shoulder" of the separate councils on water management had been replaced with Auckland Council's Unitary Plan appearing to permit stormwater overflows.
It was not acceptable for the policing on a national matter such as water to be left to Auckland Council's stormwater unit, known as Healthy Waters, the submission said.
What is the Stop Auckland Sewage Overflows Coalition?
The coalition was set up in March this year. About 14 community and environmental groups from Mission Bay to Whau Creek gave initial support for the initiative. So far four groups - Herne Bay Residents Association, St Marys Bay Association, Freemans Bay Residents Association and Orakei Community Association have joined. Other groups are going through the process of signing up.