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Check Beach Water Quality - Minister

The Minister for the Environment, Marian Hobbs, is encouraging people to check out the water quality before swimming at their favourite beach this summer.

She says most New Zealand beaches have good water quality, but on occasions some suffer the effects of run-off from stormwater and upstream land use with the water containing a higher-than-acceptable level of bugs.

"These organisms can cause coughs and colds, stomach bugs, diarrhoea, and even respiratory problems for people who swim in the affected water, so it's a good idea to know what you're getting yourself into first," the Minister added.

Information on beach water quality is available from many local and regional councils through websites and 0800 numbers.

The Ministry for the Environment and Ministry of Health, in association with councils around the country are reviewing bathing water guidelines  with a view to providing information on likely water quality when people are at the beach, Ms Hobbs said.

"The information available now is very useful, but it's based on the results of testing up to two days before. A lot can happen in two days. Councils are looking at ways to make information more immediate, and the progress being made is really encouraging."

Ms Hobbs says better information will be obtained through water quality testing, and by looking at which factors affect beach water quality. An example of this might be the effect of heavy rainfall on water quality of a particular beach.

"Many councils have a good idea already of how rainfall can affect the beaches they are responsible for," Marian Hobbs said. "The public can ring the councils and be pretty confident about the safety of going swimming.

"In saying that, we want to put in place a method to predict the likely quality of bathing water so that the public will be better informed about the risks they could face swimming at a beach where the water quality isn't first rate. After all, who wants to have a great day at the beach spoiled by some nasty water-related side effects?"

It should be kept in mind however that New Zealand generally does have good quality beaches and where that's not so, the local authorities are addressing the problem.

"Beaches that are not as good as they could be are usually situated in urban areas and it is these beaches that are likely to be the most popular during the summer months," Ms Hobbs said.

Beach water quality for some regions around the country is posted on the Ministry for the Environment’s web site: http://marine.mfe.govt.nz/beach-water/. Monitoring at beaches starts soon (for many regions mid-November– late February/ mid-March) and the website will be updated weekly with results from council monitoring.
For more information, please contact:

Dave Brash
Senior Policy Advisor
Office of the Minister for the Environment
Phone: 04-471-9847 or 025-526-247

Megan Linwood
Policy Analyst
Ministry for the Environment
Phone: 04-917-7412

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