Aucklanders wanting to cool off in the sea might get seriously crook if they do with dozens of high risk swimming warnings in place across the region's beaches.
This isn't new but it should still be shocking.
• Do not swim: Point Chevalier beach hit with health warning
• Over 50 popular Auckland beaches 'high risk' of illness swimming warnings
• Our summer sickness: Over 50 Auckland beaches under 'high alert'
• Faecal warning at Auckland's beaches following downpour
According to Auckland Council's Safeswim website, more than 50 of Auckland's beaches held a "high risk" of making swimmers ill at the beginning of this week.
Ten of those spots also include a long-term alert, where swimming is not advised with sampling showing water quality consistently fails to meet national guidelines.
Some might point out mangrove-dotted tidal flats aren't exactly ideal swimming spots anyway but Aucklanders within walking distance of a coast expect to relax there in summer, and quite rightly so.
Sure, the warnings followed torrential rain and storms that battered Auckland over the weekend, putting strain on parts of the storm and wastewater networks. The number of alerts lifted as the rainwater dissipated and pressure on the pipe network eased.
But the parlous state of coastal waters has remained contaminated for too long, regardless of the ebb and flow of political leanings in the city administration.
This is a black mark on every territorial authority on the Auckland isthmus since Sir Dove-Myer Robinson rallied to oppose further contamination of the Waitemata. It is clearly beyond the capacity of local authorities and needs national intervention. Our sea breezes are rank with the pong of political paralysis.
National's environment spokesman Scott Simpson has called for a formal investigation into the state of Auckland's beaches. But he is wrong. There is no need for any more inquiries. The condition and the causes have long been documented.
A presentation tabled by an Auckland Council flood planning manager in 2018 noted "individual reports over many decades have highlighted water quality problems in Auckland, whether they were about the frequency of wastewater overflows or the water quality in the receiving environment".
Determining the source of the contamination, likewise, does not require lengthy investigation.
A black alert, which Pt Chevalier beach is under, indicates a "very high risk" of illness from swimming and means the water was directly contaminated by human faeces, and not just the enterococci bacteria that could be from the gut of any animal.
Faecal bacteria comes from the wastewater network. When it is overwhelmed, such as by heavy downpours, the network overflows onto the coastline. This is what the system has been designed to do. The alternative would have human waste spilling into the streets. Perhaps this would have forced a level of honesty much earlier on the issue.
A $1.2b central Interceptor project is expected to begin tunnelling this year and is hoped to reduce overflows by up to 80 per cent across the western isthmus from Hillsborough to St Marys Bay. One only need glance at the red alerts on the Safeswim site to understand this is a drop in our odium.
Aucklanders pay an average of almost $3500 each in rates while being greeted with signs on their beaches warning the water isn't safe to enter.
As the pandemic has shown, if the health of the people isn't deemed worthy of protection, then the priorities are wrong.