Kaipara District Council (24 Hours) 0800 727 059

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Recreational Swimming Water Quality Programme

Once again the summer holiday period is upon us. Beaches, lakes and streams will soon be inundated with visitors, campers and those retiring to holiday homes for a bit of fun and relaxation.

The Recreational Swimming Water Quality Programme (RSWQP) is a joint project that is managed by the Northland Regional Council (NRC), in partnership with the Northland District Health Board (NDHB), Far North District Council (FNDC), Whangarei District Council (WDC) and Kaipara District Council (KDC).

The programme involves collecting water samples from a number of the region’s most popular freshwater and coastal swimming sites on a weekly basis throughout the summer, to measure the amount of bacteria present in the water. Sites are graded weekly according to the amount of bacteria present – green for ‘safe’, orange for ‘caution’ and red for ‘unsafe’.

Results are displayed at the end of each week on NRC’s website at www.nrc.govt.nz/swimming and as a link on Kaipara District Council’s website.  Warning signs are erected each week at sites that have been graded as ‘unsafe’.

Three sampling sites have been deleted from weekly sampling runs this season and will remain off the list in future.  They are:

  • Kaihu River at the swimming hole next to the Top 10 Holiday Park at Trounson Park
    The site will no longer be tested because tests have shown the cause of contamination is ruminant i.e. livestock.  A permanent ‘Health Notice’ sign has been erected near the swimming hole advising the public not to swim within 48 hours after rainfall.

  • Omamari Beach Stream by the carpark
    This site will no longer be tested for the same reasons as Kaihu River and a permanent 'Health Notice' sign has been erected at the carpark advising the public that the stream is regularly contaminated.

  • Mangawhai Harbour by the pontoon below Eveline Street
    Removed because it is no longer seen to be a risk.


The current incident involving contamination at Mangawhai was the result of water quality sampling on Monday 15 December 2014 after the 13-14 December 2014 stormy weekend.  There are a number of coastal sites in Northland which showed extremely high levels of contamination which resulted in all councils having to deploy health warning signs.  Similar contamination has occurred further south to Auckland and beyond.  The source of the contamination is unknown at this stage until source tracking is completed.  The results are usually made available on the Northland Regional Council website.  The latest samples taken from three monitored sites at Mangawhai have been tested and those results are clear.  The two signs have been removed. 

The signs are health warnings only and they are intended to be a public advisory device.  Swimming and shellfish collecting is not advised for a period of time when the signs are displayed.  The signs are not enforceable therefore most people may make their own informed decisions whether they choose to comply with the signs.  The Ministry of Health requires all councils to be involved in a summer programme where water quality is monitored at selected recreational sites throughout Northland for the period December to March.  Councils are obliged to warn the public if contamination is present and councils must investigate the source however as the source of contamination is widespread it will be easier to determine the cause through source tracking which is likely to be underway.


NZ Herald: Poor water quality blights top beaches

A world-class Gisborne surfing spot and one of Northland's most picturesque strands of coastline are among more than 40 swimming beaches hit with a "caution" label for water quality...more

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