Can I Swim?

River, stream, and beach water quality including wastewater overflows

Taranaki Regional Council monitor bacteria levels at popular swimming and fishing sites. The monitored sites in New Plymouth District are shown below (to view all sites in Taranaki visit trc.govt.nz).

The map also shows any wastewater overflows and warnings, and you can find more information about wastewater overflows in the table below the map.  

Please note that MPI also issue toxic shellfish warnings, you can view them here.

 

Sewage Overflow Alerts

Some of the water health warnings are because of wastewater overflows. Please find more information about these in the table below.

Waterway affected  Discharge location Date of discharge Waste type Warning Comments 
Mangati Stream and Waiwhakaiho   Mangati Stream and Waiwhakaiho Beach  1 April 2021  Sewage

No shellfish gathering

Warning ceases: 29/4/2021

 High rainfall event causing wastewater overflow from the pump station. 
Bell Block Beach Mangati Stream  28 March 2021  Sewage

No shellfish gathering 

No shellfish gathering warning ceases: 25/4/2021

 Pump station overflow due to a power outage.
Urenui River Stormwater outlets onto the mudflats Unknown Likely septic tank discharge

No shellfish gathering and avoid the mudflats

Warning ceases: Ongoing

 Testing has found elevated levels of bacteria in the stormwater discharging onto the mudflats.
Bell Block Beach  Treatment Plant Outfall 1.2km off Waiwhakiho River Mouth  Historical  

No Shellfish Gathering

Warning ceases: Ongoing

Residual levels can accumulate in shellfish under normal wastewater treatment plant operation. Ongoing monitoring of shellfish in progress to confirm if signage can be removed.
East and West of the Waiwhakaiho River Mouth  Treatment Plant Outfall 1.2km off Waiwhakiho River Mouth 
Historical  

No Shellfish Gathering 

Warning ceases: Ongoing

Residual levels can accumulate in shellfish under normal wastewater treatment plant operation. Ongoing monitoring of shellfish in progress to confirm if signage can be removed.
How do I find out if it is safe to swim at my favourite swimming spot?
You can check the map above for New Plymouth District locations or head to Stratford District Council or South Taranaki District Council websites for other locations. Signs will also be located at commonly used swimming spots which will advise you if it is currently safe to swim.

The District Councils use Taranaki Regional Council’s monitoring and national health guidelines to determine whether the water quality of a site is suitable for swimming and other water-based recreational activities.

Taranaki Regional Council monitors bacteria that indicate if there is faecal contamination at popular coastal and freshwater spots every summer (November to March), and the data is fed directly to maps on its website. The national guidelines for microbiological water quality categorise recreational bathing sites into a three different 'modes' (green, amber, red) according to the results of faecal indicator bacteria counts.

Permanent health warning signs
There are permanent signs warning of the increased health risk at the mouth of the Te Henui Stream and the Waiwhakaiho River above the Te Rewa Rewa bridge. Investigations have shown that the large number of birds at these sites are the major source of contamination.
Don't swim after rain
Water quality in our rivers and at our beaches is generally pretty good over summer, except in poor weather conditions. Heavy rain flushes contaminants from urban and rural land into waterways and we strongly advise you not to swim for at least three days after heavy or prolonged rainfall – even if a site generally has good water quality.

 

Vandalised or outdated signs

Please contact us if you see any sign that is damaged or out of date. 

Latest water quality monitoring results
TRC or LAWA (Land Air Water Aotearoa) websites. The TRC has been closely monitoring water quality across Taranaki for two decades. Discussion and analysis of long-term trends can be found on the Taranaki Regional Council website

 

report pollution

To report a pollution incident within Taranaki, call the Taranaki Regional Council immediately. Call 0800 736 222 at any time, 24/7, including public holidays.

My dog has gotten sick after swimming, what do I do?

If your dog suddenly falls ill after swimming or visiting a river, lake or the coast, take it to the vet and contact Taranaki Regional Council’s pollution hotline 0800 736 222 to advise them of your water quality concerns.

Illnesses you can contract from swimming in contaminated water
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Respiratory illnesses, similar to flu-like symptoms
  • Skin, eye and ear infections
  • Abdominal pain, cramps, and nausea
  • Irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and mouth, which may appear as an itch, redness or dermatitis.
  • Toxins can also affect the liver and the nervous system. People at greatest risk of a reaction are children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Who do I call to ask about the health risks associated with water quality?

Taranaki District Health Board has a lot of very useful information on what illnesses you can contract from swimming in contaminated water. See the FAQs on the TDHB website

Who should I call if I think I have experienced a reaction?

See your GP or ring Healthline on 0800 611 116. Tell them you may have been exposed to contaminated water. Your doctor has been asked to notify the Medical Officer of Health of any people with possible reactions. 

Is it safe to swim in or drink contaminated water?

No. You should avoid any skin contact with the water and avoid swallowing the water. 

Can I eat shellfish from contaminated water?

No. Eating shellfish from affected areas should be avoided. 

What are the health risks of contaminated recreational water?

There are a number of disease-causing bugs (called pathogens) that can survive in the sea, lakes and rivers for some time. The bugs mainly get into the water through human and animal faeces. When we come into contact with water that has been contaminated we expose ourselves to the bugs and risk getting sick. 

Even when beaches, lakes and rivers meet health guidelines, there is still a small health risk when you swim at that spot.  It is not possible to say there is zero risk to public health, especially where there are known sources of human and animal faeces near the water. 

What are pathogens and cyanobacteria?

Pathogens cause disease in humans and animals. There are many different kinds of pathogens. Some of the more widely known are Campylobacter, Salmonella, Giardia, Cryptosporidium and viruses that cause diarrhoea and flu-like symptoms. The pathogens are present in faeces and may enter our waterways through untreated sewage discharges, leaky sewerage pipes, septic tanks, stormwater, rural run-off and from birds.

Cyanobacteria are commonly known as blue-green algae. When algae multiply rapidly we get a “algal bloom”, which occur naturally. Activities, such as taking water from rivers or adding nutrients to waterways, can make things worse. 

Cyanobacteria can produce toxins, known as cyanotoxins. The toxins can be a threat to people and animals if present in drinking water, or if people and animals come into contact with the water. 

Will wearing a wetsuit protect me?

No, wearing a wetsuit or a rash vest will not protect you and could make any reaction worse. The cyanobacteria may accumulate in the collar and cuff areas and rub against your skin. This may cause a strong skin reaction in these areas. 

Is it safe to boat or canoe in contaminated water?

We recommend you do not use sites that have health warning for boating or canoeing. Recreational water safety is a joint initiative between the Taranaki Regional Council,  the New Plymouth District Council,  the South Taranaki District Council  and the Stratford District Council. 

Wastewater overflows

Wastewater overflows can sometimes occur when there is a problem with our sewer network. The Council works hard to ensure that the sewer network operates well, however there may be times when an overflow of sewage cannot be prevented and can enter a stream, river or the sea. As these overflows may result in contamination of water and shellfish, we recommend that you do not swim or collect shellfish while there are health warnings in place.

What causes wastewater overflows?

Common causes of wastewater overflows include:

  • Broken sewer pipes.
  • Blockages caused by fat build up or tree roots in a pipe.
  • Power outages.
  • Mechanical problems or blockages which cause pump stations to stop.
  • High flows through the network due to rain or storm events.

The Council monitors the sewer network so that any overflows can be detected and stopped as quickly as possible.