Thursday, December 17, 2009

pollution close to home

Piha and Kare Kare lagoons have been listed in last weekend’s papers in the top ten most polluted places to swim. No secret to those of us who live here.

I see townie kids playing in the Piha lagoon often. It is vaguely signposted as unsafe to swim in. It has an E Coli bacteria rating consistently skyhigh. I’ve given up warning folks, mostly they look at me like i am Ms Killjoy Central or one of the infamous rampant radical extremist ecologist piha dweller types (they’d be half right) and look around at the pristine bush, clear water and tiny settlement here and just keep doing it. Kids get sick. Some badly.

I was away from NZ for 16 years and even though i worked in the environmental/social justice field i too, fell for the international clean green NZ image. I came back to a job with Greenpeace NZ and that image got blown clean out of the water. The reality is a harsher reality. Something like 60% of NZ’s rivers are unsafe to swim in. Why? Industrial farming, septic refuse, factories still pumping crap upstream...And here, i live in probably THE most iconic NZ beach, representing that clean green NZ...and we can't swim in our most prominent stream/lagoon. CRAZIness. There is always the surf and pools at low tide.

Parents of small people, never fear, the sea is clean and the surf lifeguards are amazing at what they do, swim between the flags or head for the Marawhara stream in North Piha. Ask at the shop (yes, we do have one and very good it is too). That stream is often sheltered from the crazy wind, is shallow enough for small ones, has sand dunes for sliding down but is still on the beach and adults can slink around the corner to the United surfclub flags for a swim. If in doubt, the Waitakere Council has the water testing results on their website.


  1. I am so sorry to read this about such an iconic place. I am not a great swimmer (more a paddler) but I had assumed that NZ waters were generally among the cleanest in the world - 100% Pure and all that.

  2. hey, great to see you documenting water issues. we have a lot going on in our area, news breaking today about polluted drinking water across the us. stay on it!
    and big hugs and love, marta