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Auckland Council

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.

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.

These can be:

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 and should be protected from use by vehicles or stock.

If the area is boggy or has unusual plant growth, there might be a leak that needs to be repaired.

Rules for onsite wastewater systems

The rules for inspecting and maintaining onsite wastewater systems are set by the Auckland Unitary Plan.

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.

Property owners pay a targeted rate for this service, but still need to arrange their own inspections with a private company.

This does not cover secondary or tertiary systems, which need more frequent maintenance.

The current contract is due to end in June 2021. After this there may be changes to how the pump-out scheme is delivered.

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