• Anita Hollerer-Squire

Pollution in New Zealand

Updated: Jun 14

"Green, clean New Zealand"?

When I first moved to New Zealand in 1999, I thought I'm moving to this pristine place with crystal clear water and unspoilt beaches. I still think New Zealand is a beautiful country with stunning places, but I'm also aware of the areas that are not living up to the green, clean image I had.

Our rivers and beaches

One of my biggest concerns is that our rivers and beaches are so polluted we often can't swim in them. Having had the hottest summer on record, many of the popular swimming spots around Auckland and the rest of the country were unsafe for swimming.

In Auckland, one of the reasons is sewage overflow due to the huge amounts of rainfall we've had and an inadequate wastewater infrastructure. When we have big storms, the storm water seeps into the sewage system. To prevent the sewage from overflowing, it is pumped out onto the city's beaches. Human faeces in the water carry bacteria and viruses that can be harmful to our health and we could end up with skin infections, gastroenteritis or other illnesses.

According to Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, the council could reduce wastewater overflows by as much as 80 to 90 per cent within a decade. This still seems like a very long time to go - especially since this problem didn't only just start yesterday.

Another big problem for our polluted waterways is the farming industry. According to Statistics NZ, dairy cattle increased by nearly 69 percent, from 3.84 million in 1994 to 6.49 million in 2017.

With that many cows urinating, the nitrogen levels in our water is way too high. Too much total nitrogen can lead to excessive growth of algae, which can deteriorate river habitats and can be toxic to aquatic life.