Safeswim frequently asked questions
Safeswim provides live information on the conditions at many of the popular swimming sites around Northland. The site provides a three day forecast on water quality, tides, weather information and if the beach is currently lifeguarded.
We have provided answers to some of the questions you may have about the Safeswim platform.
What is Safeswim?
A joint initiative between Auckland Council, Northland Regional Council, Surf Life Saving New Zealand and others which provides live information on water quality and swimming conditions at your favourite freshwater and coastal swimming spot.
How is this different to the Recreational Swimming Water Quality Programme (RSWQP?)
Over the past 20 years we have ran the RSWQP programme which monitored the bacteria in the water at a section of Northland’s most popular freshwater and coastal sites from December to March each year. Water samples at these sites were collected on Mondays and sent to a laboratory to be analysed for the concentration of faecal indicator bacteria. Indicator bacteria signify the potential presence of disease-causing pathogens. These results were then distributed to the region’s three district councils and Te Whatu Ora - Te Tai Tokerau (formerly Northland District Health Board) and any sites that had exceeded the Recreational Swimming Guidelines had a sign erected to notify the public. This usually happened 2-3 days after the sample was taken.
Now with Safeswim, we have taken these 20 years of monitoring data and developed a model that predicts the water quality at each of our swimming sites and takes into account rainfall, location, wind, tide and sunlight to provide live information on the risk of swimming at each site. Each site has its own tailored model.
Are these sites still being tested?
Yes, water samples are still being collected at each site and analysed at the laboratory to measure the concentration of faecal indicator bacteria. This information will be used to ensure the accuracy of the models and will help to develop the model over time with any changes to the site or the surrounding land.
How do I know which sites are suitable or unsuitable for swimming?
Sites are graded according to national guidelines. When the water quality is predicted to be safe for swimming, Safeswim will display a green droplet, and when sites are predicted to exceed the national guidelines, a red droplet will be displayed indicating the risk of illness from swimming is greater.
As a rule of thumb:
- DON’T swim if there are warning signs indicating that the water is unsuitable for swimming.
- AVOID swimming for two to three days after heavy rainfall.
- DON’T swim if the water appears dirty or murky, smells or has scum on the surface.
- BE AWARE of potential contamination nearby or upstream.
Who should I contact about health risks at swimming sites?
Contact Te Whatu Ora - Te Tai Tokerau on 09 430 4100.
Who should I contact if I become ill after swimming at a site in Northland?
See a doctor if the symptoms are severe or if you are worried. You should also contact the on-call Health Protection Officer at Te Whatu Ora - Te Tai Tokerau on 09 430 4100 if you think that your illness was caused by swimming.
Who should I contact if I become ill after eating shellfish from a site in Northland?
See a doctor if the symptoms are severe or if you are worried. You should also contact the on-call Health Protection Officer at Te Whatu Ora - Te Tai Tokerau on 09 430 4100.
Who should I contact if I notice something unusual at a site?
If you suspect an environmental incident has occurred at a site, contact the Northland Regional Council 24/7 Environmental Hotline on 0800 504 639.
How many sites will be monitored?
Currently we have 70 sites live on Safeswim and a few more that will be monitored over the next year. Once we have enough information from these new sites, they will be displayed on Safeswim.
How do I know which sites are included in the programme?
A map displaying the site locations is available on safeswim.org.nz
How often are sites monitored?
Instead of sites being monitored once a week through the summer months they will now be monitored year-round.
How do I get more information on Safeswim?
You can find more information on the Recreational Swimming Water Quality Programme at the following sites:
If you wish to speak to someone about the programme, contact us on 0800 002 004.
How can I help?
Report suspected incidents of water pollution to the NRC 24/7 Environmental Hotline 0800 504 639.
If you have a health concern relating to swimming water quality, contact the on-call health protection officer at Te Whatu Ora - Te Tai Tokerau on 09 430 4100.
If you have concerns about warning signs, contact your local district council:
- Far North: 0800 920 029
- Kaipara: 0800 727 059
- Whangārei: 0800 932 463