Safe to swim?
We are encouraging our residents to check Taranaki Regional Council or LAWA (Land Air Water Aotearoa) websites before they head out to swim or use any of our lakes, rivers and beaches recreationally.
If you plan to swim today, here are some signs to look out for before jumping into the water.
- Has there been moderate to heavy rain in the last 48 hours? We advise you not to swim after heavy or prolonged rain when contaminates flush from urban and rural land into waterways.
- Is the water murky, cloudy or brown? This type of water is unsuitable for swimming.
- Is the water clear? Can you see the bottom and your feet in the water? If not – its best to stay out of the water.
The table below shows popular swimming spots in South Taranaki that are tested (weekly) by the Taranaki Regional Council from 1 November to 31 March each year. Please check here before heading out to swim.
|Swim Spot||Is it safe to swim?|
|Middleton Bay, Ōpunakē||Yes|
|Kaūpokonui River mouth||Yes|
|Waingongoro River at Taumata Park, Eltham||Yes|
|Waingongoro River at mouth (Ōhawe)||Yes|
Pātea River at boat ramp
|Mana Bay, Pātea||Yes|
|Lake Rotokare *power boating|
|Lake Rotorangi at dam pontoon||Yes|
Water quality at popular swimming spots
Popular swimming spots in each district are listed on each district council website, along with each individual swimming spot’s current health status. There will also be signs at each swimming spot if it is not safe to swim there. The health status is determined by the district councils according to national guidelines and the results of monitoring by the Taranaki Regional Council (TRC).
Every summer, the TRC monitors popular freshwater and coastal swimming spots for bacteria that indicate if there is faecal contamination. This data is fed directly to maps on its website.
National guidelines for microbiological water quality categorise recreational bathing sites into a three different 'modes' (green, amber, red) according to the results of faecal indicator bacteria counts. District councils use TRC monitoring results and national health guidelines to inform the public on whether the water quality of a site is suitable for swimming and other water-based recreational activities.
Don’t swim after rain
Water quality in our rivers and at our beaches is generally pretty good over summer, except in poor weather conditions. Heavy rain flushes contaminants from urban and rural land into waterways and we strongly advise you not to swim for at least three days after heavy or prolonged rainfall – even if a site generally has good water quality.
Vandalised or outdated signs
Contact us if you see a sign that’s been damaged or is out of date.
General information about freshwater quality in Taranaki
The TRC has been closely monitoring water quality across Taranaki for two decades. Discussion and analysis of long-term trends can be found here.
Report pollution immediately
To report a pollution incident within Taranaki, call the Taranaki Regional Council immediately. Call 0800 736 222 at any time, 24/7, including public holidays.
What illnesses can you contract from swimming in contaminated water?
- Respiratory illnesses, similar to flu-like symptoms
- Skin, eye and ear infections
- Abdominal pain, cramps, and nausea
- Irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and mouth, which may appear as an itch, redness or dermatitis.
- Toxins can also affect the liver and the nervous system. People at greatest risk of a reaction are children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Who should I call if I think I have experienced a reaction?
See your GP or ring Healthline on 0800 611 116. Tell them you may have been exposed to contaminated water. Your doctor has been asked to notify the Medical Officer of Health of any people with possible reactions.
Is it safe to swim in or drink contaminated water?
No. You should avoid any skin contact with the water and avoid swallowing the water.
What if my dog has suddenly fallen ill?
If your dog suddenly falls ill after swimming or visiting a river, lake or the coast, take it to the vet and contact Taranaki Regional Council’s pollution hotline 0800 736 222 to advise them of your water quality concerns.
Can I eat shellfish from contaminated water?
No. Eating shellfish from affected areas should be avoided. To find out more about shellfish safety visit NZ Food Safety Authority.
What are the health risks of contaminated recreational water?
There are a number of disease-causing bugs (called pathogens) that can survive in the sea, lakes and rivers for some time. The bugs mainly get into the water through human and animal faeces. When we come into contact with water that has been contaminated we expose ourselves to the bugs and risk getting sick.
What are Pathogens?
Pathogens cause disease in humans and animals. There are many different kinds of pathogens. Some of the more widely known are Campylobacter, Salmonella, Giardia, Cryptosporidium and viruses that cause diarrhoea and flu-like symptoms. The pathogens are present in faeces and may enter our waterways through untreated sewage discharges, leaky sewerage pipes, septic tanks, stormwater, rural run-off and from birds.
Even when beaches, lakes and rivers meet health guidelines, there is still a small health risk when you swim at that spot. It is not possible to say there is zero risk to public health, especially where there are known sources of human and animal faeces near the water.
What are Cyanobacteria?
Cyanobacteria are commonly known as blue-green algae. When algae multiply rapidly we get a “algal bloom”, which occur naturally. Activities, such as taking water from rivers or adding nutrients to waterways, can make things worse.
Cyanobacteria can produce toxins, known as cyanotoxins. The toxins can be a threat to people and animals if present in drinking water, or if people and animals come into contact with the water.
Will wearing a wetsuit protect me?
No, wearing a wetsuit or a rash vest will not protect you and could make any reaction worse. The cyanobacteria may accumulate in the collar and cuff areas and rub against your skin. This may cause a strong skin reaction in these areas.
Is it safe to boat or canoe in contaminated water?
We recommend you do not use sites that have health warning for boating or canoeing. Recreational water safety is a joint initiative between us, the Taranaki Regional Council, the New Plymouth District Council and the Stratford District Council.