Wellington Scoop

Health and safety at risk in Titahi Bay

by Michelle Laurenson
Wellington Water has been showing a blatant disregard for public health and safety in Titahi Bay.

It is disingenuous for Wellington Water to apologise to the public whilst blaming their operators for a mess they are responsible for.

Wellington Water were notified by their operators of the recent plant malfunction that caused untreated sewage to spill into Titahi Bay beach for 11 hours. And they were aware of this contamination but due to staff being on annual leave, their strategic communication protocol was not followed through.

Operators and management must immediately notify, as this is a legal requirement and condition of consent WGN33805 (allowing discharge of wastewater into coastal waters).

Wellington Water is legally bound by the wastewater discharge consent to immediately erect signage on the beach and to notify the public. But the public were not notified for two days and then only a few select groups were emailed. Yet any burst pipe in Wellington is immediately advised on Wellington Water’s Facebook page. The Titahi Bay community have repeatedly asked for notifications to be issued via Facebook as this is the way to reach the most people.

Wellington Water must monitor and sample all discharges, which is also a requirement of the consent and part of the Recreational Bathing Water Programme. They have three different versions for when they sample in summertime. Version 1 is weekly from Nov-Dec, version 2 is weekly Nov-Feb and version three is weekly Nov-March (Long Term Plan 2018-2038, pg. 83).

Only Version 3 aligns with requirements for the Titahi Bay Surf Life-saving club and the protection of people at the beach in summertime from Nov-March.

This chaotic approach to sampling for faecal content and continued breach of notification after treatment plant discharge is a blatant disregard for public health and safety.

In 2018 the Office of the Auditor General and in 2020 Audit NZ investigated and reported that Wellington Water were found to have significant issues with performance measures.

The Wellington Water Committee is supposed to hold Wellington Water to account. They oversee the budget and performance of Wellington Water. This committee is comprised of representatives from six councils: Porirua, Wellington, Lower and Upper Hutt, South Wairarapa and Regional.

Porirua Mayor Anita Baker and Regional Cr Jenny Brash recently chastised Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy for his concerns about Wellington Water for their fancy reports and under-performance. Regional Council chair Daran Ponter also joined Mayor Guppy in pointing out that Wellington Water had spent over $350,000 on PR.

It would seem that Wellington Water are not being held to account by their six employers. They are paid handsomely to spend up large on propaganda to convince the public they are doing a great job, when in reality their lack of investment and project management for many years is now causing catastrophic customer and environmental impact and putting public health and safety at risk.

Michelle Laurenson is a member of the Titahi Bay Residents Association and Your Bay Your Say.

November 30: No warning of raw sewage in Titahi Bay


  1. Corrina Connor, 2. February 2021, 10:56

    I agree. Wellington Water’s communication (twitter and Facebook) is patchy and inconsistent when it comes to learning whether there has been wastewater discharge into Wellington Harbour. Added to that, it’s hard to ascertain from LAWA whether ‘red’ alerts are estimated (because of rainfall in the previous 48 hours) or real (high coliform count from testing). Recently LAWA was showing every beach in Wellington to be ‘red’ a couple of days after a minimal rainfall, leading regular swimmers to worry that there’d been an actual wastewater discharge. As there are now so many people regularly swimming/rowing/kayaking/paddle boarding in Oriental Bay and at other city/peninsula beaches it is crucial that timely, accurate notifications and information from Wellington Water and LAWA are available.

  2. Concerned Wellingtonian, 2. February 2021, 11:53

    Wellington’s representative on Wellington Water is Sean Rush and he has been very quiet recently. What has he reported about this mess?

  3. Meredith, 2. February 2021, 13:52

    He was interviewed on a recent RNZ broadcast. I believe a Green recently (last triennium and the one before) held the Environment ( so-called) portfolio responsible for this. Before that, if I recall correctly, a Green mayor had this portfolio. I have nothing against Greens. In fact I think they do and did great stuff in Parliament last triennium. Just want to know what the Council Green who previously had these responsibilities has to say.

  4. Michelle Laurenson, 2. February 2021, 14:47

    And there’s so much finger-pointing – yet they’re all involved – so many chiefs involved!. Why are none of them being transparent or accountable?

  5. Paula Birnie, 2. February 2021, 19:45

    $350,000 on a PR stunt is outrageous. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Ratepayers are funding career politicians to play socialites, meanwhile Wellington Water hide in plain sight. No accountability among friends who are all protected by their council code of conduct.