Auckland Council is focusing on cows instead of clean beaches in a submission on the Government's clean water package, says a lobby group.
The Auckland Stormwater and Sewage Coalition said instead of cows in waterways, council should focus on things that really matter to Aucklanders.
They include getting sewage, contaminated stormwater and toxic trade waste out of the city's freshwater and marine environment, says coalition member John McCaffery.
You only need one unhealthy and rubbish-laden stream flowing into the harbour to get a whole lot of filthy 'third world' style beaches covered in plastic, toilet paper and pathogens
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The council's draft submission on the package is silent on polluted rivers that could be made swimmable, such as the Whau River, Tamaki Estuary, Purewa Creek, Henderson Creek, Riverhead, Otara Creek and others, he said.
The draft has responded specifically to the main points of the Government's Clean Water Package, including a new target that 90 per cent of large rivers and lakes are swimmable by 2040 and details of new stock exclusion regulations.
The draft says the Auckland region has few large rivers which apply to the swimming target and stock exclusion regulations are likely to be met through the city's new planning rulebook, or Unitary Plan.
McCaffery said the submission is an opportunity for council to say the concept of national standards for major rivers is a nonsense and the wellbeing of Auckland depends on its estuaries, creeks, beaches and plans for intensification.
The coalition was formed in response to a series of Herald articles that revealed diluted sewage floods into the Waitemata Harbour every time there's more than 5mm of rain and swimming was banned at 10 Auckland beaches over summer because of worsening pollution from human and animal wastes.
Coalition members include a number of ratepayers groups from the inner city suburbs, St Lukes Environmental Protection Society (STEPS) and the Manukau Harbour Restoration Society.
STEPS chairwoman Liz Walker said the Government's Clean Water Package has not gone far enough, saying urban and rural situations both need to be considered.
"We fear there is a danger of government organisations cherry-picking streams suitable for being designated as clean, which ignores the fact you only need one unhealthy and rubbish-laden stream flowing into the harbour to get a whole lot of filthy 'third world' style beaches covered in plastic, toilet paper and pathogens," Walker said.
The draft submission will be discussed by council's environment and community committee on Tuesday. Committee chairwoman Penny Hulse could not be reached for comment.
Waitemata and Gulf councillor Mike Lee said environmental protection begins at home and Auckland needs to focus on serious pollution of its waterways.