Aucklanders are a hypocritical bunch.

We pollute our precious inner harbour beaches to such an unhealthy state, we have to drive for hours seeking somewhere clean and green to relax.

But when we arrive, we discover the dairy cows got their first. The pristine lakes and streams of childhood memory are now just as bad as the Piha Lagoon or Cox's Bay.

So we return home astride our moral high horse, railing against the farmers.
The Herald's latest expose of Auckland's creaking sewerage system is a timely reminder that as long as we continue fouling our own nest, we are no better than the cow cockies we so enjoy bad-mouthing.


Like every mayor before him, newcomer Phil Goff finds the frequent overflow of raw sewage into the Waitemata "completely unacceptable."

To demonstrate he truly meant business, a good first step would be to tell Watercare Services, the council's water and wastewater arm, the rules had changed.

Currently, there's a deal between Watercare and the council, its owner/regulator, to both turn a blind eye to "uncontrolled overflows ... during heavy rain."

Watercare's latest "Asset Management Plan 2016 to 2036" admits that around half of the wastewater system's 110 overflow outlets, "discharge more than 50 times per year" into the Waitemata Harbour.

In fact Watercare admits elsewhere that most of these 50 trouble spots spew filth into the harbour every time it rains.

The official Network Discharge Consent, which Auckland Council granted Watercare in June 2014 appears strict.

It sternly sets a limit of just two wet weather overflows a year from each "overflow point."

However there's a huge escape valve built into the consent which makes it a joke. Watercare and Auckland Council can get together anytime and "agree a higher overflow frequency if appropriate."

I naively thought a pipe must have burst. A local quickly put me right. It was a normality locals had learnt to put up with.

The end result is signs, like that at Cox's Bay, where the overflows are so regular there's a permanent health warning sign banning swimming, collecting shellfish "or other water activities."

Yesterday I received pictures from a Sandringham resident of waste floating down Meola Creek following the weekend's storms. He said the stench of sewage was again floating across suburban backyards. It reminded me of a walk I took last winter along Parawai Crescent on the fringes of Cox's Creek Reserve in Grey Lynn.

In a dip of the road adjacent to the park entry, you were enveloped in a lavatorial stench. I naively thought a pipe must have burst.

A local quickly put me right. It was a normality locals had learnt to put up with. There'd been a burst of remedial activity in the late 1990s, and a flurry of consulting in 2005 to address the Cox's Bay problem. But the stench lingers.

True, there are plans for $3 billion plus worth of new pipeworks to carry the wastewater off to the Mangere Treatment plant.

But the first stage, to begin next year, will take ten years to complete. Even then, it will only reduce the overflow by 80 per cent.

So it's hardly surprising locals are opposed to housing intensification projects that will add to the effluent overflow. The current flashpoint is the planned six-storey 70 apartment complex on the site of the old Gables Tavern at the corner of Kelmarna Ave and Jervois Rd. It is just up the road from the Cox's Bay emergency "long drop."

This project, fast-tracked with the aid of the Special Housing Areas Act, will, within three years, add the effluent of another 70 households to a sewage system that already overflows into Cox's Creek more than once a week.

Mayor Goff response was, in effect, to tell the locals to put a peg on their noses. He said the problem was not the newcomers, but the 16,000 existing homes which were connected to the area's old combined stormwater/sewer system.

Exactly what point he was making is unclear. It's not as though the existing residents have an alternative to hook up to. And while it's true, the stormwater from the new development has to be reticulated to temporary holding tanks, the sewage and grey water can not be, going straight into the overloaded existing infrastructure.

The farmers plead for more time to abate their polluting ways, and we city folk rightly roll our eyes and tell them to stop destroying our clean and green land. It's time we Aucklanders stopped and looked in the mirror.