People who live near a pretty Auckland beach are flushed with anger because the water remains unsafe for swimming because of old sewerage pipes plugged into stormwater connections.
Hobson Bay, the waterfront for the wealthy suburbs of Remuera and Parnell, has been declared an indefinite health hazard and warning signs have been erected along a 6km shoreline.
The head of Auckland Council's Safeswim department, Nick Vigar, says "maybe" the bay will be safe for swimming by the summer of 2022.
"There is no doubt at all that most of those streams coming into Hobson Bay have levels of pollution that are just too high from a public health perspective," Vigar said.
"Hobson Bay has about eight signs in total and most of those are in the streams in Thomas Bloodworth Park. We're really concerned about kids playing in and around the stream there.
"If people are looking for a place to go jump in the water and swim I think there are better, lower-risk places than Hobson Bay that are close at hand."
But what rankles some locals is the fact the council created Wilson's beach in Hobson bay in 2014 at a cost residents estimate at $500,000. Sand was dumped along the shoreline
to make the attractive beach, but the water lapping it remains unsafe to enter.
Vigar said the Safeswim team was notified of the Hobson Bay problem by residents' groups last summer. He said the issue was actually a "dry weather" sewage problem.
Unhealthy pollution hazards occur at most Auckland beaches after downpours when the stormwater system overflows into sewerage pipes.
But Hobson Bay has an historical problem that council only became aware of in 2020.
"If you don't go looking for these things you never find them," Vigar said.
"Basically these are issues like cross-connections of wastewater into the stormwater network.
"There are many more issues than I expected. I can't remember the numbers but it's dozens.
"For example we found a whole fragment of a network from several houses plugged into the stormwater and that's probably been there for 30 years. We've also had faults in the network, broken bits of network between the wastewater and stormwater network."
Watercare acting chief operations officer Anin Nama said every time they identified an illegal drain around Hobson Bay they "notify council compliance and they go through the process with property owners to get those remedied" at the resident's cost.
Bruce Renshaw, who lives in Victoria Ave, 50 metres from Wilson's Beach, campaigned to have the sand laid in 2014.
"I'm disgusted, absolutely disgusted to think that council spent roughly half a million dollars," Wilson said.
"I'm angry about the effect that we've got a nice beach here that people like me from time to time used to come down and rake it almost every week to keep it nice and pristine.
"We have an annual party of all the neighbours and we get at least 50 people down here, barbecues and all the rest of it and it's lovely. So we have a pride in it.
"It's a nice private little beach that council thought was worth spending however many hundred thousand dollars on and now it can't be used. Crazy."
Despite the prominent warning sign at the entrance path to Wilson's Beach, this week's warm weather drew people into the water.
Vigar said he and the Safeswim team were working to sort the dry weather issues at Hobson Bay and he hopes "maybe" the water will be safe to enjoy next summer.
Along with that, Wilson's Beach will be added to Auckland Council's Swimsafe website, which provides updates on the safety of beach water quality - particularly following rain events.
"I'd like to hope we'd be in a position where we can remove the signage and have the site up maybe next summer. I think that's realistic," Vigar said.
"In terms of people using that beach, just taking a conservative view and being aware of public health issues, I think those signs are going to be there for the rest of this summer anyway.
Auckland Orakei Ward Councillor Desley Simpson says pushing for the Hobson Bay water quality upgrade will be a priority this year.
"It's disgraceful that this beautiful inner city patch of water which has had investment to encourage people to use it - the development of Wilson's Beach and kayak platforms - only to find that it is completely unusable," Simpson said.
"It's not even safe for dogs. That's disgraceful. It's my absolute focus to address this with urgency."