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Snapshot of swimming spots shows beaches best

Hon David Benson-Pope, MP
Minister for the Environment
Member of Parliament for Dunedin South

17 February 2006 Media Statement

Snapshot of swimming spots shows beaches best

New Zealand’s favourite coastal swimming beaches are generally of a very high quality, a new report released today by Environment Minister David Benson-Pope shows. However, a number of inland lake and river swimming spots need more work to improve water quality to reduce health risks for swimmers.

The Ministry for the Environment web-based report, Snapshot – Recreational Water Quality in New Zealand, provides a national overview of water quality at swimming spots on the coast and in freshwater rivers and lakes. The report is based on data from the summer swimming seasons of 2003-04 and 2004-05.

The results show only a very small percentage of coastal beaches (1-2 percent) had water quality that was frequently too poor to swim in. However, between 10 percent and 15 percent of freshwater beaches were frequently unsafe for swimming because of poor water quality.

"The aim of the report is to improve our knowledge about the state of New Zealand’s recreational waters," said Mr Benson-Pope. "It also lays the groundwork for identifying national trends and quantifying the effect of human activities on our bathing beaches.

"Generally the poorest beaches tended to be heavily influenced by intensive land use or urban development in the catchment. Common sources of micro-biological pollution included sewage and storm-water outfalls, septic tank outlets, sanitation discharges from boat toilets and farm effluent run-off. The information will help inform policy and management decisions.

“Central government is doing a significant amount of work around improving the quality of New Zealand’s freshwater bodies, including lakes and rivers. The government's Sustainable Water Programme of Action is currently investigating ways to improve freshwater management and this is a high priority.

"The good news is that councils around the country are involved in managing these areas with the aim of improving water quality. There has also been improved monitoring of New Zealand beaches between the summer of 2003/04 and 2004/05 with the number of sites monitored increasing by 18 percent for coastal beaches and 38 percent for freshwater sites."

Central and local government have to date committed more than $100million to cleaning up the Taupo and Rotorua Lakes and reducing the impacts of land-based activities on lake water quality. The Dairying and Clean Streams Accord is making significant progress in reducing the impacts of dairy farm activities on waterways.

The Snapshot report is available at: www.mfe.govt.nz

ENDS

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