As summer kicks into gear, Kiwis around the country will be dusting off their swimwear and looking for the best beach to spend their sunny afternoons or lazy weekends.
However, equally important is the list of beaches that aren’t safe or suitable to swim at this summer, unless you want to catch a nasty bug.
Aotearoa New Zealand has its fair share of gorgeous, clean beaches but there are some you’ll want to avoid this summer thanks to wastewater (aka poo). Some of them may even be your usual go-to summer spot.
Earlier this year, Safeswim, an Auckland Council-led initiative providing real-time online beach water quality information, assigned a “black flag” to beaches at Auckland’s St Heliers and Kohimarama. This was because the detection of wastewater overflow posed a ”very high risk of illness” for swimmers.
This doesn’t mean people have been relieving themselves in these spots (although, we’re sure that does happen). Rather, sewage has overflowed from manholes, pump stations or gully traps due to floods, landslides or pipe damage.
So, if you want a summer of poo-free swims, here are some spots in Auckland to avoid, plus advice for other regions.
Do not swim - black flag
According to Safeswim, these spots are not safe to swim at the time of writing.
Sentinel Road Beach
St Mary’s Bay
Swimming not advised - long-term alert
These spots have a “long-term alert” which means water quality has been “consistently poor” and swimming is not advised.
Piha North Lagoon
Little Oneroa Lagoon
Orere Point Beach Reserve
How do I know if a place is safe to swim?
Fortunately, there are several ways you can ensure a poo-free summer dip.
- See up-to-date information on water quality on websites such as LAWA, Safeswim (Auckland), Greater Wellington or other council websites
- Pay attention to and follow signs or notices posted near swimming spots spots
- Use your eyes; if a creek, estuary or other spot looks or smells unusual then trust your gut and steer clear
- Avoid swimming near things that could contaminate the water such as water water outlets, livestock or bird nesting sites
- Avoid swimming for two to three days after heavy or extended periods of rain, even if it looks clear.