St Mary’s Bay Auckland: assessment of recent water quality monitoring initiatives

Jarrod Walker, Edda Kalbus
Auckland Council: Healthy Waters Department and Research and Evaluation Unit
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St Mary’s Bay is an important place for Māori and has a history of cultural, social and recreational use associated with the surrounding harbour waters. Development of the public area around the Bay and of water-based activities in the Bay itself is increasing, with a large number of community groups and clubs utilising these spaces. The St Mary’s Bay water quality improvement programme was initiated in April 2016 in response to concerns over degraded water quality in the Bay, particularly from the operation of the combined sewer network, which overflows into the Bay from two separate engineered overflow points. The Programme Team participants are Auckland Council (particularly Healthy Waters and RIMU), Watercare, Panuku Development Auckland and Auckland Transport.

Degraded water quality is limiting the use of the coastal water space for passive and contact recreation (which is a key feature of the council-ratified Westhaven Plan) as well as being unacceptable to Maori and environmentally damaging. At the commencement of the programme, it became apparent that there was some uncertainty and disagreement amongst participants as to the sources of contamination and their magnitude and origin(s). This situation was partly caused by a range of disparate and independent water quality testing regimes being undertaken by some of the programme participants (Auckland Council, Watercare and Panuku). This report was commissioned to review current monitoring programmes, provide comment on their combined usefulness and approach and make recommendations to improve overall monitoring of the Bay from a holistic perspective.

This report identifies a range of monitoring programmes and investigations that collectively provide a somewhat piecemeal description of the pressures impacting the marine environment within St Mary’s Bay and the Westhaven Marina. These programmes (and associated data) vary in their objectives, robustness and, in some instances, provide little ability to accurately describe the scale and origin of some issues in a holistic sense. However, from the available data, two issues are identified. These are the concentrations of faecal bacteria (sourced from humans) and heavy metal contamination.

Auckland Council working report, WR2017/004

Last updated: 2017-08-24