Anyone heading into the water this summer can rest assured that the water quality is regularly tested.
Over the 2015/16 monitoring season, Auckland Council’s Safeswim programme monitored 72 recreational water sites, including eight beaches on the Hibiscus Coast – Army Bay, Little and Big Manly, Hatfields, Stanmore Bay, Red Beach, Orewa and Matakatia.
Twenty-two routine samples were collected from each site over the season.
Water tests were carried out in accordance with the Ministry for the Environment and Ministry of Health Microbiological water quality guidelines.
The guidelines set up three modes for recreational water quality monitoring for public health protection:
Green – where bacterial levels are acceptable for swimming; alert – where the alert level has been exceeded, and sampling is increased to a daily frequency to confirm if a problem exists; and action – where action level has been exceeded, and water quality is likely to be unsafe for swimming.
Over the monitoring season, one Stanmore Bay sample exceeded the action guideline level. However, no health warning was required since the re-test result returned to normal. In addition, one sample from Red Beach exceeded the alert guideline level, but the re-test result also showed this returned to normal.
The council also issues ‘report cards’ by local board area, including freshwater reports and marine reports. The 2016 marine report card for the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board area ranks the water quality of the Hibiscus Coast as ‘excellent’. This grade is the same as the 2014 report card.
Estuaries in the Hibiscus Coast reporting area generally have very low levels of contaminants and the ecological health of sites in Okura, Orewa and Waiwera estuaries was generally ranked as ‘good’ or ‘extremely good’ near the mouth of the estuary, declining to ‘moderate’ or ‘poor’ up the estuary.
However, one site in the Weiti Estuary received a ‘poor’ grade and in Okura, changes in species consistent with sedimentation were detected.
One change to note is the establishment of the Mediterranean fan worm at sites both inside and outside the Okura-Long Bay marine reserve.
The fresh water report for this area states that the health of the rivers on the Hibiscus Coast is “very good”.
“The relatively low intensity of the urban development, together with the large areas of forested land remaining, means the effects of urban development in this area are not as strong as elsewhere in the region,” the report card, somewhat surprisingly, states.
It goes on to say that: “Rivers in the Hibiscus Coast reporting area tend to have riparian margins with trees and bush, which provide shade, leaf litter and woody debris to the stream and anchor the stream banks, although some of the original riparian vegetation has been removed to allow for more intensive land use.”