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Te whakahaere i te waikapurangi i tō wāhi noho

Managing wastewater on your property

​Avoid harm to the environment by keeping your onsite wastewater system and disposal field working well. If you are building a new system or upgrading, check the consent requirements.


Read the transcript of this video.

Types of wastewater systems

Most properties in Auckland are connected to Watercare's piped network and pay for water supply and wastewater.

Households in rural areas and on the Hauraki Gulf islands often do not have access to Watercare's network. They have onsite wastewater systems to treat their sewage and other wastewater.

Primary systems

A primary system has a septic tank and disposal field. These units tend to be older and use simple technology.

Secondary or tertiary systems

Secondary and tertiary systems have multiple treatment tanks and a disposal field. They often use electric pumps and have multiple chambers for increased filtration.

Other systems

Other systems include composting toilets and worm farms, which have their own maintenance requirements.

Maintaining your wastewater system

As a property owner, you are responsible for maintaining your onsite wastewater system and knowing how it works.

All onsite wastewater systems have a disposal field. This is the area where the treated water from your septic tank is distributed. It may be lawn or bush. The area should not be used by vehicles or stock.

If the area is boggy, smelly, or overgrown, there might be a leak that needs to be repaired.

Proof of maintenance

Soon we will start requesting proof of maintenance for all onsite wastewater systems.

From July 2022, you may receive a letter from us. This letter will explain:

  • what type of proof we need
  • how long you have to submit your records.

Failure to maintain your system may result in a fine or penalty.

Rules for onsite wastewater systems

The rules for inspecting and maintaining onsite wastewater systems are set by the Auckland Unitary Plan (PDF 65.8KB).

At minimum:

  • a primary system needs to be inspected every three years
  • a secondary or tertiary system needs to be inspected every six months.

Maintenance involves inspecting your system and cleaning or repairing any parts that might be blocked, damaged or worn.

The sludge and scum needs to be pumped out when it fills half the volume of the tank. This work should always be done by a trained professional.

Faulty onsite wastewater systems

Without proper maintenance, your system can stop treating your wastewater.

Faulty onsite wastewater systems can harm human health and the environment.

It is important to manage offensive odours, effluent seepage and other forms of pollution caused by faulty onsite wastewater systems.

Your system needs maintenance if you notice:

  • a blockage or overflow of sewage waste
  • broken tank lids
  • murky or smelly puddles on your property
  • scum and sludge build-up in your septic tank.

Where you can, avoid:

  • overloading your system with too much water
  • letting rain into your system
  • putting harsh cleaning products, other chemicals, food waste or rubbish into your system.

If you don't maintain your system properly, you can be fined for each day the faulty system is used.

Find a contractor online by searching for "Septic tank services".

Upgrade your onsite wastewater system

The design of your onsite wastewater system needs to suit the way it is used. Review your onsite wastewater system if:

  • you are renovating your house
  • more people will live on your property
  • your summer holiday home becomes your permanent residence
  • you start to host a lot of visitors.

The above changes mean more water will flow through your system, putting more strain on how well your tanks and disposal field can treat your sewage and wastewater.

If you upgrade your onsite wastewater system or build a new one, you will need to apply for a building consent and may need a resource consent.

See Install or alter an onsite wastewater system.

Waitākere pump-out programme

We pump out standard septic tanks, long drops and grease traps every three years for properties in the former Waitakere City Council area.

If you own property in this area, you pay a targeted rate for this service, but you still need to arrange your own inspections with a private company every three years.

This pump-out programme does not cover secondary or tertiary systems, which need maintenance every six months.

More information

Contact for more information about this service.

Useful wastewater documents

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