Virginia Lake has its annual algal olfactory assault a little earlier this year.

Or as one passerby put it: "It stinks. You can smell it as you go past in the car, with the windows up."

A Whanganui District Council spokesperson said the smell at Virginia Lake on St Johns Hill was from the algal bloom, which has started earlier than usual.

"Water sampling to assess the algal content has begun and we are awaiting those results.

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The bloom brings with it a pungent smell, as people will remember from previous years.

Algal blooms are not uncommon in New Zealand lakes, especially when the weather warms up, and they can come and go throughout the warmer months."