The dumping of suspected asbestos in one of the Bay of Plenty's much-loved rivers has been described as "incomprehensible" and is now being investigated.
Whakatāne deputy mayor Andrew Iles said he found the dumped roof sheeting - believed to contain asbestos - in the Waimana River which he described as the "gateway" to the Waimana community in the eastern Bay of Plenty.
"For somebody to dump asbestos sheeting, not on the side of the river but in the river as well ... I just didn't honestly believe such people could exist," Iles said.
The sheeting and other rubbish at Wardlaw Glade were first reported to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council on Friday.
Iles, who is also on the Keep New Zealand Beautiful board, passes through the Waimana Gorge daily and said the site where the waste was left was a "much-loved and well-used swimming hole".
"It's a lovely area."
However, he said often in summer the carpark at the site was left with rubbish "daily", including toilet paper, bottles and fast-food wrapping.
The latest dumping was the first he had seen in a while, Iles said.
"Where there's a will there's a way and if you've got buggers with loads of bloody rubbish that think 'here's a means to our end' - they'll find a time to get the stuff in there and dump it."
Iles has served on Whakatāne District Council since the 2000s and said he knew of at least one compostable toilet and two portaloos that had been stolen from the site.
"These are our frustrations, trying to keep it in as pristine condition as possible."
Iles said last week's culprit was not necessarily from Waimana because the river was frequently visited by people from Whakatāne township and further afield.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council compliance manager Stephen Mellor said an asbestos assessor collected samples from the material yesterday.
Some of the material was removed on Monday and the rest was removed after sampling, he said. If there was strong evidence to suggest a particular person or group of people were responsible "the regional council would follow an enforcement process".
This may involve: "Serving the offender with an abatement notice, $300 infringement fine, prosecution or a combination."
Toi Te Ora Medical Officer of Health Dr Phil Shoemack said any fly-tipping could pose potential health hazards.
This could be physical harm from the waste and from contaminated water, he said.
"Anyone wishing to swim in a waterway should do their own assessment of the local situation."
Shoemack suggested people check the immediate environment for the likes of farm animals, discoloured water, water that smells unusual, or foreign objects in water.
"To avoid illnesses such as diarrhoea, vomiting, skin infections or ear infections, it's also best to avoid swimming in rivers, streams, beaches, lakes and harbour areas for at least 48 hours after heavy rain."