Stab Magazine | New Zealand Surfers Endure Literal Shit Storm

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New Zealand Surfers Endure Literal Shit Storm

Despite ongoing raw sewage leaks, surfers at Boulder Bank persist. 

news // Jun 16, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

What’s enough to stop you from going for a surf? A ‘hangover’ after two beers? A little bit of cloud in the sky? Perhaps the prospect of an incoming onshore breeze? Or even some half-baked story about how it’ll be better in the arvo? Once the residual froth from your gromhood is gone, it’s easy to find any excuse not to surf. Of course, you love surfing and want to do it, but sometimes suiting up is just too much a chore. Perusing the ‘gram from the comfort of your couch is much more enticing. 

Well, here’s a story to highlight how pathetic your excuses truly are: A bunch of surfers in Nelson, New Zealand are surfing amongst literal shit. 

Most of us are familiar, at least to some extent, with poor water quality after heavy rain but those ocean contaminations are usually overflowing stormwater; it’s unhealthy, yeah, but not quite untreated sewage. This however, is what some surfers at Boulder Bank in New Zealand are putting up with. 

“You come out here when the surf is really good and it’s been raining for two days and the place just reeks of fresh sewage. It’s pretty gross.” Mark Nichols, the Nelson boardriders club president told StuffSometimes we see toilet paper and solid pieces [of faeces]. Any normal person would say; ‘Then why do you surf there?’. And I’d say, people have been surfing here since before the plant was here.” 

Swimmers, unaware of the dangers due to minimal warning signage have also been impacted. A nurse in the region, Faith Bagnall was hospitalised with E. Coli infection after swimming in the region on Boxing Day. Faith is also a surfer, but steers clear of Boulder Bank in an attempt to avoid floaters and the inevitable sickness. Others have been struck down with undiagnosed sickness, ear infections, wound infections, and just general nausea from the sight of seeing a turd take-off on your inside. 

Signs have been erected around the area warning surfers or going into the water after periods of heavy rain, but as we know, these periods often coincide with significant swell events. As Nichols points out, it’s not as if the faults aren’t fixable. The whole reason there’s shit in the line up is due to a faulty sewage line.

On the 28th May, a leak of approximately 4-5 cubic metres of untreated sewage spilled out into the Nelson Haven, one of three recent leaks in recent memory. The council is reportedly ‘working’ to fix the leaks, but so far this has only involved patching specific areas of weakness. A fully renewed pipeline will not begin construction until 2027/28. 

In addition, Land Air Water Aotearoa (LAWA) only test the water quality in the summer months, meaning the particles, bacteria, et cetera, are unknown throughout the majority of the year. 

The damage extends beyond humans in the region too. People are warned not to eat shellfish collected near the ‘consented outfall’ at Boulder Bank, with the marine life in the region being afflicted by both treated, and of greater concern, untreated waste.  

Next time you say the surf looks shit, just remember it could be worse. 

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