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Name polluted swimming spots say Greens

February 23, 2006

Name polluted swimming and surfing spots say Greens

People need to be told clearly about health-risks posed by specific beaches, lakes and rivers around the country, Green Party Environment Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos says.

Environment Minister David Benson-Pope issued a report on Friday saying New Zealand's favourite coastal swimming beaches were generally of a high quality but "a number" of inland lake and river swimming spots "needed more work to reduce health risks for swimmers". The report is based on data from the summer swimming seasons of 2003-04 and 2004-05.

"Since Friday my staff have sifted through the data trying to pin down exactly which spots are risky and which aren't. Although the Ministry for the Environment's website contains a commendable amount of scientific data, much of it is too technical to be of use to parents who want their children to go to the least-polluted swimming hole in the district," Nandor says.

"Mr Benson-Pope failed to name the risky places. I strongly believe he should have.

"It isn't enough to leave the job to local bodies. Clearly, from reading various regional and district council websites and from personal experience, there's a big variation around New Zealand in the amount of resources put into monitoring polluted waterways and in how much information is released publicly," Mr Tanczos says. "Some council websites are excellent - for example Rodney which states very clearly 'safe to swim' alongside the name of particular beaches, but in many other regions and districts the information is difficult to decipher.

"The Minister said 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 and also that the information would help 'inform policy and management decisions'.

"But that doesn't help inform ordinary people. This information should be made accessible for the swimming and surfing decisions of ordinary people," Mr Tanczos says. "There is obviously cause for serious concern - Mr Benson-Pope says between 10 percent and 15 percent of freshwater beaches are frequently unsafe for swimming, without naming them. I realise worst-polluted places may have a sign, but it should be spelt out more clearly to swimmers which sites have lower levels of pollution, or seasonal pollution problems.

"I am annoyed also that the report came during the 'media-dead-time' of Friday afternoon when bad news is often released in the hope journalists have gone home. This environmental health issue is too important to be fudged or glossed over as it appears to have been by the Government," Nandor says.


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