Is Auckland Water Safe?


A very important Environmental Court case is getting underway which should tell us if Auckland’s water is not as safe as it used to be or there has been a recent deterioration.
Joel Cayford, who was an extremely good ARC Councillor but sadly is no longer elected to Auckland’s local bodies, but continues to advocate for a better Auckland, has written to Auckland Councillors and to Watercare stating that he is at a loss to understand how Winstone Aggregates obtained consent to dump “cleanfill” with elevated levels of contaminants in the Three Kings Quarry.
He says: “Auckland should not be condoning - in any shape or form - activities which permit new contaminants to add to the contaminant loading already building in our underground water resources. It has to be stopped.”

Three Kings Quarry |

In his letter to Mayor Brown he says:

“The Mt Eden Road quarry – also known as Three Kings Quarry – is above, and drains into, a large fresh water aquifer from which water is already drawn by some (including Auckland Zoo), and which is a back-up drinking water source for Auckland in the event of a natural disaster, such as the one we have just seen in Christchurch.
“It is unclear to me after the recent re-structuring of Auckland local government, exactly whose responsibility it is to defend the public interest in Auckland’s underground water resources.
“The proposed Mt Eden Road quarry landfill project may result in Auckland’s aquifers becoming too contaminated over time to be used as a much-needed water source. Why should Auckland take that risk when industry best practice options exist to avoid it? If a natural disaster hit in Auckland – volcano or earthquake – good civil defence planning would be reliant upon Auckland’s underground water resources to meet the need for drinking water. Surely Auckland Council would not support any activities which might degrade the quality of Auckland’s underground water resources.

So the decision to grant the Three Kings Quarry owners, Winstone Aggregates, resource consent to fill the Mt Eden Road quarry with waste material is being heardin the Environment Court in a case getting underway today.
Cayford argues that the waste material will be permitted to contain elevated levels of contaminants including arsenic, copper, zinc, DDT and hydrocarbons.
He says there has been many submissions opposing this “permit to pollute” process, including a wide range of community interests whose concerns have not been addressed.
“These concerns include not only the critical water issues, but also the fact that up to 750 trucks – many of them articulated – will carry fill to the quarry every day with dramatic effects on local traffic flow. In addition there will be significant dust pollution and noise from the operation itself. This could go on as long as 35 years, which is the term of the consent.”
This issue has flown under the radar - not helped by attention focused on the Christchurch tragedy.
Thank goodness for bright-eyed crusaders like Cayford. We await with anticipation the result. But we also await explanations as to how this ever came to be.
More on his blog




  1. mark says:

    What do you mean with “how this ever came to be” Jon? This happened in full public view - the application was publicly notified, and this is, as far as I understand, the appeal process that some groups have asked for, being handled in Environment Court.

    Partial disclosure - I worked for the Winstones on this one, but I’m not involved currently. Whatever you believe about the matters at hand (and I’m not a geologist or contamination expert, so can’t talk about that), there’s nothing fishy about the process as far as I can see…

  2. Julie Fairey says:

    The Puketapapa Local Board, which covers the area the quarry is in, has had some discussions about the issue. I’m not the portfolio holder for this area, or the Chair, so I’m not commenting here on behalf of the Board, but thought you might be interested in part of a motion we passed at our last business meeting, on Feb 24th:

    17.c That the Puketapapa Local Board send the following note to Winstone Quarry
    Stakeholders on behalf of the Board:
    “To the stakeholders who have an interest in the future uses of the Winstone
    Quarry land in Three Kings, Mt Roskill.
    The Puketapapa Local Board supports development (over the period from now
    until the land is sold) that will not constrain how the property may be used. The Board seeks active involvement in the process to ensure the property will benefit local and regional generations of residents in the future. The Board is willing to facilitate meetings between stakeholders to achieve this end.”

    My understanding is that this note has already been sent, and our purpose in doing this was to send a signal to the Environment Court hearing of where our priorities are. We have identified the future use of the quarry as one of the big projects we would like to see well underway or achieved in ten years’ time.

    The unconfirmed minutes are here:

    We have had presentations from the Friends of Oakley Creek and Three Kings United to the Board also.

    Personally, it is frustrating that due to the amalgamation (and the haste of that process) there are cases like this that are in a sort of weird space where Local Boards should have a voice but can’t because of previous Council decisions. We are all still working out where we sit in terms of co-governance and legacy decisions.

  3. Jon C says:

    @Julie Thanks for that interesting and helpful background. That is a very good point about the amalgamation causing a twilight zone.
    @Mark I am not in any way suggesting anything underhand happened. No doubt the correct processes were followed to the letter.
    My point is that there has not been the wide public debate on this that the issue deserves which is why the matter is now before the Environment Court. I may have missed something here but I did not see any media coverage of the council decision nor notification from the council. Those who do not live in the area also deserve to be canvassed about what is going on.
    I assume this got lost during the local government changes.

  4. peter says:

    This issue is of huge importance and has major long term consequences for Auckland.Thank you for this posting.


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