Beaches get tick of approval

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 12/10/2012
Taranaki East End Beach
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ
SPRING SWIM: Aidan Goble, 9, from Norfolk, takes a dip at East End Beach on Thursday.

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Swimming season is all but upon us and Taranaki Regional Council is again hailing the water quality at the region's beaches.

The water quality at Taranaki beaches is markedly better than the national average, the council's policy and planning committee was told yesterday.

Opunake beach was identified as being one of the cleanest beaches in Taranaki for the past two years. Over the past two summers water at the region's beaches has been of very good quality for recreation, director environment quality Gary Bedford said.

"Opunake is our shining light."

More than 93 per cent of Taranaki's beaches were below Ministry of the Environment alert levels. No site entered the ministry's ‘action mode'. No beach in Taranaki is showing a decline in water quality, Mr Bedford said.

"And five of the 12 beaches we monitor for recreation had their lowest biological counts."

Ohawe Beach showed the greatest long-term improvement. Ngamotu and Opunake were also showing significant improvements in water quality.

But the debate continues around whether the TRC should do regular testing during the winter months.

Councillor Craig Williamson said he wanted the water quality of beaches and rivers monitored year round, not just in summer.

The Waiwhakaiho, Waitara and Patea were all rivers that surfers have to paddle across to get to the surf, he said.

"As a surfer I want to know what is in rivers all year long," he said.

"People use these sites all year round. It's a rosy statement that we do better over summer. I want to know what happens all year round."

Bad weather always increases the bacteria count, but there are no warning signs in winter.

"I don't know if we should accept that in winter it's not good. If the bacteria count is up perhaps more should be done to mitigate it."

Mr Bedford said it would cost between $65,000 to $70,000 to test during winter and the results would not tell the council anything it didn't already know.

"We already know the bacteria count will go up in winter after a storm event or floods. If the river is up the bacteria counts will be up.

"We emphasis this on the website. I question the value of [winter testing]. It would just confirm what we know."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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