People are being warned to stay out of the water at one of Tauranga's busiest swimming spots because of wastewater contamination – and not for the first time.

The Tauranga City Council announced at the weekend there had been a wastewater overflow at Pilot Bay in Mount Maunganui due to a pipe blockage caused by wet wipes.

The council was sending water samples to be tested for bacteria but would not get the results back until early this week.

Pilot Bay is a popular family swimming spot in the Tauranga Harbour and is next to where cruise passengers disembark.

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Tauranga was expecting thousands of extra visitors over the weekend with six cruise ships sailing into the port between Friday and tomorrow.

Tourism Bay of Plenty's Kath Low said she hoped the test results, due tomorrow, gave the all clear to reopen Pilot Bay for swimming and recreational activities.

"We know the staff managing this issue are doing all they can and appreciate that at this time it is a very busy and popular beach. We have several cruise ships berthing in Tauranga over the week so hope this problem is remedied soon."

Yesterday, Pilot Bay was noticeably quieter than usual.

Some people were still swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding, however, despite warning signs being posted all over the beach and on buoys in the water.

Signs were erected at Pilot Bay over the weekend alerting beachgoers of a temporary health warning. Photo / George Novak
Signs were erected at Pilot Bay over the weekend alerting beachgoers of a temporary health warning. Photo / George Novak

Margaret Collard and her husband were visiting from Rotorua and often spend their days at Pilot Bay when they are in town.

They "love it" and were swimming there on Saturday.

But yesterday morning when the couple set out to go fishing, they saw the contamination signs.

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"Stopped us fishing, stopped us swimming, stopped us doing everything," Collard said.

"It wasn't a good look."

She said more information was needed on the signs about what had happened.

"People have been in there swimming today; they've taken no notice of the signs."

It was "really horrible" to see Pilot Bay so empty, Collard said.

"I mean, it's nice for me, I've got peace and quiet, but it's not good for tourism or anything else."

Margaret Collard, a visitor from Rotorua, said the contamination stopped her and her husband from swimming and fishing at Pilot Bay. Photo / George Novak
Margaret Collard, a visitor from Rotorua, said the contamination stopped her and her husband from swimming and fishing at Pilot Bay. Photo / George Novak

A local business owner on the beach, who did not want to be named, said the overflow had a "terrible" impact on his business at what should be the busiest time of the year.

"It's been pretty quiet, especially this morning. Which is fair enough, when you've put a whole bunch of signs telling 6000 cruise ship passengers that we're a polluted s***-hole, it's going to slow things down."

He said two changes of the tide was more than enough to flush out the contaminated water, especially in Pilot Bay which was right next to the harbour entrance.

"All this water changes every six hours."

The business owner believed the contaminated water was long gone, but his business would probably not pick up until the council removed the signs.

He said the council should be checking and clearing the pipes before they burst, instead of reacting when they did.

The council signs warned against fishing, swimming and collecting shellfish.

"Due to a recent contamination event you are advised to avoid contact with the water until further notice," the signs said.

A spokeswoman for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council said staff were notified of the overflow on Saturday.

"The duty compliance officer attended the site and spoke to TCC staff and contractors about the incident and reviewed their remediation plan.

"We will continue to monitor the event and TCC's activities. We advised our iwi contacts this weekend and let them know of TCC's response and our ongoing monitoring role."

Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless said he would like to look into the incident further and see if there was anything the council could do in the future.

"There are two things: One, we can look and see if there are any engineering or physical things we can do to lessen the chance of it happening again, and the second thing is to ask people to be please be careful what they flush in toilets and to avoid these so-called flushable baby wipes."

Previous contamination incidents at Pilot Bay
•There was a sewage overflow near the boat ramp in February 2016.
•In December 2015, Pilot Bay was closed to the public after wastewater contaminations.
•In that case, a commercial fishing vessel in Tauranga Harbour was found to be taking on water and while booms were deployed the vessel's sewage tank appeared to be the problem after being emptied into a sucker truck.