Aucklanders will know if it is safe to swim before heading to the beach this summer.

In a first for New Zealand, the Auckland Council is introducing forecasts on water quality at 69 beaches, as well as up to date information on other risks, such as tides and rips, stinging jellyfish and even shark sightings.

The forecasting system draws on environmental information, such as rainfall, wind and tides to predict the concentration of bacteria in beach water. It is 20 times more accurate than the current weekly Safeswim reporting system of retrospective testing of water samples, according to council chief operating officer Dean Kimpton.

The new Safeswim programme is expected to be approved by councillors next week and launched on November 1.


The public will have year-round access on a website to forecasts on water quality with a "real time" alert function to inform them of risks as soon as they are detected.

Mayor Phil Goff said the council had a responsibility to inform Aucklanders about the water quality at Auckland beaches, which "is worse than we would like to believe".

Auckland Council and Watercare have partnered with Surf Lifesaving Northern Region and the Auckland Regional Public Health Service to ensure the new Safeswim programme provides comprehensive advice on beach safety.

The new programme exceeds the national guidelines, that were set in 2003 and which council considers are out of date.

Last summer swimming was banned at 10 Auckland beaches because of worsening pollution from human and animal wastes.

Permanent signs declaring that the water is not safe for swimming went up at the start of summer at Laingholm and Wood Bay near Titirangi, the north and south lagoons at Piha, and at the Bethells Beach lagoon - all popular spots for children.

The council has stopped routine monitoring of water quality at all five sites, as well as at five other beaches that already had permanent warning signs - Cox's Bay, Meola Reef, Weymouth, the Wairau Stream Outlet at Milford Beach and Little Oneroa lagoon on Waiheke Island.