The quality of the fresh water at Taranaki's top swimming spots last summer was the best it has been for more than 10 years.
But the question has been asked as to whether the Taranaki Regional Council should extend its testing from just the summer months to all year round.
Last summer the top 16 most popular freshwater swimming spots were tested and 11 remained free of bacteria for the whole season.
The regional freshwater recreational bathing water quality report for the 2011/12 season was discussed at the TRC policy and planning committee yesterday.
It takes 24 hours to test the samples and the results are then posted on the council's website, so during the summer the information is always current. In the 2011/12 season the website had more than 4000 views, around 300 visits a week.
Director environmental quality Gary Bedford said samples were taken only in the months when swimming was likely, not during wet weather.
Councillor Craig Williamson said that argument was flawed.
Obviously, in the summer more people were swimming in their togs, he said. "But, I paddled across the Waiwhakaiho River myself yesterday. People are in or on the water all year round, whether it is raining or not. [The water] should be tested all year round."
And putting warning signs up, as on the Te Henui Stream, was a bad look for visitors, he said.
"I would like the council to investigate how we can mitigate the problem. It can't be just the birdlife."
Wild fowl have been blamed for the bacteria count at the Te Henui Stream, the mouth of the Waiwhakaiho River and the lower Patea River, which are the three worst- affected sites.
Mr Bedford said if people stopped feeding the ducks and seagulls, water quality would improve.
As far as testing all year round, the TRC was following national guidelines, he said.
"We do do sampling all year round, but not necessarily at bathing sites." And the TRC has standing advisories on its website on the quality of the water all year.
Chairman David MacLeod said monitoring was not going to tell them more than they already knew.
The question was, was it getting to a dangerous level where they needed to do something about it, such as kill the wild fowl?
Mr Bedford said the guidelines were conservative and if they were exceeded it wouldn't mean a significant danger for the public.
Chief executive Basil Chamberlain said the council had to be realistic. As many people enjoyed the wildlife as enjoyed the water.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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