We wouldn’t blame you if you thought this was a joke, but there’s now a government-operated website nicknamed the “poo tracker” in New Zealand. Although some who use the nickname think it’s a joke, the service it provides is very important as it has revealed the extent of sewage pollution on some of the country’s most visited shores. 16 different beaches were closed long-term in the Auckland region due to water quality issues.
Decades of pollution and contamination are behind this long overdue monitoring service. The website Safeswim was launched in November last year and predicts and tracks the safety of Auckland waterways in real time.
Auckland residents and tourists can now check which beach is safe to swim at. Their waterways have been plagued by pollution with not enough serious commitment by the government to solve the problem for 1.4m residents of the largest city on the island.
An animated map shows contaminated water spreading for a number of kilometers off-shore, laden with bacteria such as e coli and cryptosporidium that can cause gastroenteritis, respiratory illnesses and ear, eye and skin infections.
The Auckland mayor, Phil Goff, said the ongoing pollution issues were unacceptable. “It’s not a new problem. Storm rains has been causing wastewater overflows into our harbors for a century. However for a world-class city in the 21st century which is what Auckland aspires to be, this is no longer acceptable,” Goff wrote in the New Zealand Herald.
“Current planning and investment levels in our storm and wastewater systems mean poor water quality will persist for 30 years.”
The detailed animation comes on the back of a number of significant beach closures this holiday period, including the shutdown of one of Auckland’s most popular swimming spots, Takapuna beach, on New Year’s Day due to contamination.
Water contamination is a nationwide issue, with the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, vowing to clean up the country’s rivers and lakes to a “swimmable state” within a decade, saying clean water is “the birthright” of all New Zealanders.