Summer swim spot survey begins

24 Nov 2016, 10:30 AM

Annual summer water quality tests have begun at Northland’s popular beaches, rivers and lakes.

The Northland Regional Council testing looks for bacteria used to gauge the risks of contracting gastrointestinal and other infections while using the beaches, rivers and lakes for swimming, water sports and other forms of recreation.

Council chairman Bill Shepherd says testing resumed Monday 21 November 2016 and will run until Tuesday 21 February 2017.

Hundreds of samples will be taken from 46 popular coastal sites and 13 freshwater locations across the region with results posted on the national environmental reporting website LAWA –

Councillor Shepherd says weekly results are also forwarded to the Whangarei, Far North and Kaipara District Councils, the Northland District Health Board (DHB) and other interested parties.

“The DHB and relevant district council are also informed of any results showing elevated bacterial levels within 24 hours and it’s then their responsibility to take any further action required.”

That action can include further site investigations to establish the source of any contamination, public warnings not to swim or gather shellfish and putting up permanent warning signs at the worst sites.

Councillor Shepherd says last summer 99.1 percent (606 out of 611) samples at coastal sites and 89.4% (161 out of 180) samples at freshwater sites over summer met national ‘guideline values’, meaning they were considered suitable for swimming.

He says simple tips to judge water quality include not swimming for two or three days after heavy rain which can carry run-off from land or if there are warning signs indicating unsafe water.

“As a general rule of thumb, don’t swim if the water looks dirty or murky, smells or has scum on its surface and also look out for or consider any potential sources of contamination, both nearby and upstream.”

He says any water quality concerns can be reported to the regional council’s freephone 24/7 Environmental Hotline on (0800) 504 639.