Ten spots may get thumbs down for summer swims

KIMBERLEY CRAYTON-BROWN
Last updated 05:00 23/10/2012

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An Environment Ministry report on the water quality of New Zealand swimming spots shows 10 areas in Southland that may be unsuitable for swimming.

The report card for recreational water quality in New Zealand is based on an assessment of potential sources of faecal contamination, and lists seven of the region's sites as very poor, three as poor, four as good and seven as very good. Three sites had no data.

The data was supplied to the ministry by regional and district councils during summer periods in the past five years. It is available on council websites and has been included in previous environmental reports.

Sites with a very poor grade should be avoided for swimming, and sites with a poor grade are generally unsuitable for swimming.

Of the 458 monitored beaches around New Zealand, 17 per cent of freshwater beaches and 18 per cent of coastal beaches were graded as very good, and 15 per cent of freshwater and 42 per cent of coastal beaches were good.

Twenty-four per cent of freshwater and 13 per cent of coastal beaches were considered poor, and 21 per cent of freshwater and 3 per cent of coastal beaches were given a very poor grade.

Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips said the data in the ministry report card was not new information.

Water quality in general was an important issue, and it was a high priority of the council's to improve water quality in the region, he said.

The council is targeting a 10 per cent improvement by 2020, and is looking at policies and initiatives to do this as part of Water and Land 2020 and the Government's National Policy Statement for Freshwater.

This is the first year the ministry has used the beach grade, so results cannot be compared to previous years.

Environment Southland monitoring of swimming spots takes place from December till March, while water quality monitoring for shellfish gathering takes place all year.

Information on the Environment Southland website at the moment shows that of 26 monitored sites three are considered a significant health risk as of September 18 this year (New River Estuary at Mokomoko Inlet and at Whalers Bay, and Toetoes Harbour at Fortrose).

One has a health risk that may have increased (Jacobs River Estuary downstream of the fish co-op) as at September 19.

SHORE SCORES SOUTHLAND BEACH GRADES:

VERY POOR: Mataura River at Gore, Mataura River at Riversdale, Oreti River at Wallacetown, Oreti River at Winton Bridge, Waiau River at Tuatapere, Waikaia River at Waikaia, Aparima River at Thornbury

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POOR: Bluff Harbour at Morrison Beach, Jacobs River Estuary downstream Railway Bridge East, Monkey Island at Frentz Rd

GOOD: Kawakaputa Bay at Wakapatu Rd, New River Estuary at Omaui, New River Estuary at Water Ski Club, Riverton Rocks at Mitchells Bay North

VERY GOOD: Lake Manapouri at Frasers Beach, Lake Te Anau at Boat Harbour Beach, Mararoa River at South Mavora Lake, Awarua Bay at Tiwai pumphouse, Halfmoon Bay at bathing beach, Oreti Beach at Dunns Rd, Porpoise Bay at camping ground

NO DATA: Colac Bay at Colac Bay Rd opposite marae, Halfmoon Bay at Elgin Tce, Waikaia River upstream of Piano Flat

Source: Ministry for the Environment

- The Southland Times

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