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Report highlights recreational water quality


20 December 2007
Media Statement

Report highlights recreational water quality

Kiwis heading to favourite coastal holiday spots this summer can be assured that the vast majority of New Zealand’s beach swimming areas have water quality that is suitable for swimming and other water recreation.

Nationwide data on bacteria levels, which is collected by councils and health authorities, is contained in the Ministry for the Environment’s report Snapshot – recreational water quality in New Zealand.

“Last summer, more than three quarters of the 380 monitored coastal swimming spots met New Zealand bacterial guidelines on almost every occasion they were sampled. That is good news for the Kiwi tradition of cooling off in the sea on hot summer days,” said Todd Krieble, Ministry for the Environment general manager Reporting and Communications.

However, he says the 2006/07 data showed fresh water swimming spots on New Zealand’s rivers, streams and lakes have poorer water quality – 40 per cent of the 230 monitored had water quality that did not consistently meet guidelines.

Only 1 per cent of salt water sites breached the bacterial guidelines regularly, but this figure rose to 10 per cent at the fresh water sites.

“The main pollutant of concern to swimmers is faecal matter. Common sources in our waters include sewage and storm water discharges and run-off from farmland and urban areas,” said Todd Krieble.

“New Zealand’s lowland waterways, and some heavily populated coastal spots, are particularly vulnerable to pollution from faecal pollution as agriculture and urban land use intensifies.”

Improving the management of land use impacts is a critical factor in improving water quality. Initiatives such as the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord – a partnership between the Ministry for the Environment, Fonterra, and local government which includes a focus on keeping stock out of streams, and effluent management – are aimed at bringing about those improvements.

Recreational water quality is monitored over the summer by regional councils and health authorities.  These authorities can provide up-to-date advice on water quality at swimming spots in local areas (a link to relevant council web pages is provided in the report).

The report is available on the Ministry for the Environment website:



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