One Northland beach and four freshwater spots are being declared unsafe to swim by the region's top environment watchdog.
The first weekly test results of popular swimming spots conducted by the Northland Regional Council (NRC) has singled out Wellingtons' Bay (in front of the northern carpark), Hatea River above the Whangarei Falls, Tirohanga Stream, Kerikeri River (at Stone Store) and Victoria River (at DoC reserve crossing) as unsafe to swim.
Results of all 48 coastal and 11 freshwater sites were put on the council's website last Friday after the summer tests began on November 26. They run until the end of March.
The samples will be given colour-coded grading: green for safe to swim; amber for elevated bacteria levels; red for unsafe for swimming.
The results will also be forwarded weekly to all three district councils, the Northland District Health Board and other interested parties to take action.
The NRC will inform the health board and councils of any results showing elevated bacterial levels within 24 hours.
Action could include further site investigations to establish the source of any contamination, public warnings not to swim or gather shellfish; and putting up permanent warning signs at the worst sites.
The council said there were four simple strategies for anyone trying to judge water quality: Don't swim for two or three days after heavy rain; don't swim if water looks dirty or murky, smells or has scum on its surface; be aware of potential sources of contamination; don't swim if there are warning signs indicating unsafe water.
Most of the popular spots that the regional council monitors are usually safe for swimming, although Northland's high rainfall and hilly terrain meant many could be contaminated temporarily by run-off for several days after heavy rain.
Warning signs have been put up in the five spots declared unsafe for swimming.
Latest results can be viewed on www.nrc.govt.nz/swimming with more information available on freephone 0800 002 004. To report
concerns about water quality, phone the NRC's freephone 0800 504 639.