Wellington Scoop

Officially approved: pollution of Titahi Bay

titahi bay sunset 2

by Michelle Laurenson
A group of concerned Titahi Bay residents have been working since May last year to create awareness about the risk to public health and the damage being caused to the environment due to an aged network with not-fit-for-purpose pumps, pipes and a Wastewater Treatment Plant located 900m from a popular recreational beach and a significant regional surf-break.

Our group, Your Bay Your Say, is continuing to seek transparency and awareness as the Porirua Wastewater Treatment Plant consent, which allows the plant to discharge sewage (often not treated) into the sea, is due for renewal.

The application for this new consent has been prepared by Wellington Water Ltd, who contract to the Porirua City Council, the consent owner. The Wellington Regional Council, the consent authority, are checking the application which will be publically notified. There’s no date yet, but October seems likely for the hearing, about the same time as the general election.

Public submissions are important to stop this consent which has been systematically amended to compliantly pollute Titahi Bay.

Before 1989, raw sewage would gush into Titahi Bay. In 1989, stage 1 of the Porirua Basin Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) was completed, for a population of 80,000. Stage 2 was to be built in 2014, for a population of 160,000.

In its Long Term Plan, the Porirua City Council have deferred Stage 2 until 2040, saying that upgrades will suffice. Yet, since 1989 investment has largely been repairs, replacement and maintenance, with vital upgrades continually deferred.

In May this year (after repeated OIA requests), we were advised that the population of the catchment in 2018 was 84,000, with a GIS map showing the catchment for the Porirua treatment plant. We matched this with the map from engineers Beca Steven who scoped the network for the first consent. This showed that population for this catchment in 2018 was actually 98,000.

Today approximately 100,000 people flush their toilet and their sewage flows through Porirua, on its way to the underfunded, over-capacity treatment plant in Titahi Bay. It is no surprise to learn that 10 sewage overflows into Porirua Harbour have occurred this year due to treatment plant overload.

Titahi Bay Beach, with the Treatment Plant’s discharge pipe just 500m off the beach, was closed from February to June this year. The Porirua City Council and Wellington Water Ltd maintain this was due to a few public cross-connections and a culvert at the south end. So Porirua Harbour has had 10 treatment plant overflows and Titahi Bay has a few cross-connections and a dodgy culvert? Yeah right!

Pollution spills do not only happen during wet weather events, although PCC was prosecuted and fined $47,000 in 2014. In 2018, PCC was prosecuted and fined $67,000 for a dry weather event – not because of a management oversight, but because of a faulty blower. The environmental disaster resulted in 1000 cubic metres of raw sewage being washed up on Titahi Bay beach. The fines were at the expense of the ratepayers.

Michelle Laurenson, a resident of Titahi Bay, is a member of Your Bay Your Say.
#save TiBay


  1. Richard & Ginny Cheyne, 25. August 2020, 15:49

    So pleased to see your report. We love our beach, having lived here over 50 years. We are most concerned because of the health risks from the polluted water. Hundreds of young surf club members plus so many more who love our safe beach need to be protected. We can’t wait any longer

  2. jamie, 25. August 2020, 16:04

    As long as the residents are happy to write a cheque for $300 million or so, everyone will be happy. Maybe a pipeline to pump it to Wellington harbour.

  3. Guy M, 26. August 2020, 8:51

    And … just imagine how much worse this is going to get if/when the Plan Change 18 on Plimmerton Farm gets approved and building for thousands more dwellings gets underway. Titahi Bay is such an integral part of living safely in Porirua – it’s the summer beach for the whole population (as Porirua Harbour is already too polluted). The Porirua City Council really need to get onto this Stage 2 facility NOW, not wait for another 20 years. Shovel Ready project right there. Fund it now!

  4. Graeme Ebbett, 26. August 2020, 10:23

    The lack of management and provision for population growth is a gross dereliction of duty by the Porirua City Council.
    Our elected representatives must be held to account.

  5. Michelle Laurenson - Your Bay Your Say, 26. August 2020, 14:22

    Having just attended the Water and Waste Joint Committee meeting where Wellington Water were a ‘no show’, it is hard for our elected representatives to be informed when their contractors don’t bother to turn up. There are only 3 of these meetings each year, and this meeting was to inform the Mayor and Councillors of the upcoming expensive re-consent process for the Treatment Plant. The public will be relying on their elected representatives to be well informed, as this re-consent will effect Porirua Harbour and Titahi Bay for the next 20 years.

  6. Stella Vine, 26. August 2020, 21:13

    It’s time that our Mayor and Councillors along with the PCC CEO step up and do the right thing. There can’t be any more bandaids on the problem and actually prioritise this non compliant infrastructure and plan for the future.
    This is a really serious issue

  7. Willie Mcmahon, 26. August 2020, 22:57

    Nothing like paddling out at our local surf break, or launching the boat and heading off down the coast for a fish and dive like so many others do. But to have to worry if the water is contaminated with sewage every time I and many others want to play in our playground is very distressing.
    In 5-10 years time will we be able to still enjoy doing these activities and will it be safe to still collect kai moana from this coastline, with the growth in population predicted; how many of them and you will want to do these activities in our Moana with your whanau and friends.
    I wonder would the council be open to each household collecting its own sewage somehow, and maybe delivering it to the local rugby park or playground and spreading it around there – put some signs up to stay away for a couple of days and let the rain disperse it naturally. Surely this way would take the stress off the infrastructure and spread the load around.
    You would think in this day and age with all the technology and data available that we would want to fix this problem that would seem to be growing alongside our population as we grow no matter where we live. It’s called human waste and we are all involved in the making of it and once flushed away it’s up to a small amount of the population to deal with it appropriately and safely…and they get paid for it too.
    Out of sight out of mind…but it’s up to us to make sure we find a solution to protect those rugby players and grandchildren playing at the park.

  8. Michelle Laurenson - Your Bay Your Say, 27. August 2020, 9:27

    Back in 2005, the consent holder (Porirua City Council) applied to the consent authority (Greater Wellington Regional Council) to stop testing the shellfish. Why? because mussels were too hard to find to test. The application was accepted and as a result no reports on the effects on the environment in regard to adverse effects of the Porirua Treatment Plant have occurred. Paua and kina are shellfish, present at Titahi Bay, they are still collected, either eaten or sold, but how do we know they are safe? Why was this condition in the consent to test shellfish removed when other Treatment Plants in the Wellington area have this condition? How do we protect the environment and public health when local authorities are able to manipulate a consent so easily? We must make sure the new consent has more stringent conditions so this can never happen.

  9. Mark Shanks, 27. August 2020, 15:37

    Thank you ‘Your Bay, Your Say’ for digging deep into the excrement of our wastewater treatment plant. The subterfuge stinks worse than the shit itself. And why do the local authorities call it wastewater? So they can ignore the problem! Water is life. It is part of a continuous cycle… it must never be thought of as waste. Where is the new technology and the public education required to begin to deal with this massive problem? GWRC has a very important role to play in this fractured, leaky system as the defender of our environment. They are our elected watchdog but they seem very afraid to bark.

  10. Pearl Freemantle, 28. August 2020, 19:00

    Shame! For decades the Porirua Harbour, the streams and Titahi Bay beach, have consistently had raw sewage polluting them. Our children cannot play in our local streams because of raw sewage, can’t swim, kayak, surf, fish or play at our beach, let alone collect kaimoana from our harbour. I am unable to understand how such a continuous massive transgression has been condoned.

  11. Henry Filth, 29. August 2020, 2:10

    This is grotesque.

    If you’re going to dump the stuff in the sea, why not just save the ratepayers the expense of sewers and let them dump their own in the streets?