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Be careful where you escape from the heatwave - Fish and Game

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

As New Zealand swelters though this week’s heatwave, people are being warned to be careful where they cool off with nearly 200 rivers, lakes and streams classed as unsafe for swimming since November according to regional and district council information.

Scorching temperatures are forecast to roast the country this week, with NIWA warning that some areas could set new temperature records.

According to the local government Land and Water Aotearoa website "Is it Safe to Swim Here?" section, warnings have already been issued for 175 waterways since the beginning of November, although some have since been lifted.

Unsafe levels of E. coli or toxic algae are to blame. In some cases, an official Public Health Warning has been issued telling people not to swim because of the risk of illness.

Fish and Game chief executive Martin Taylor says the disturbing figures show why Kiwis are so concerned about the poor state of our rivers, lakes and streams.

"It’s the height of summer, the country is sweltering in a heatwave but Kiwis may not be able to go for a swim in their local swimming hole because of contamination so severe it could potentially harm children or kill pets," Mr Taylor says.

"The figures revealed by local government’s own website shows how bad the situation has got.

"The website says it covers over 700 recreational sites throughout the country - that means those with health warnings since November represent a quarter of all these swimming spots. It isn’t good enough."

The regional council with the most warnings about off limit waterways is Horizons, with 31 issued for its rivers, lakes and streams since November.

Environment Canterbury - ECAN - is second with warnings for 25 waterways.

The actual figure of 175 unsafe waterway warnings over the three month period may be even higher because Auckland Regional Council has no listings on the LAWA website.

Martin Taylor says the dismal results show why regional and district councils need to improve their performance.

"Kiwis want to be able to swim, fish and gather food from their rivers, lakes and streams but they are increasingly unable to do that because of pollution," Mr Taylor says.

"Surveys out this month show water quality is the number one issue for New Zealanders and over 80 percent of them want tougher rules to protect their waterways."

Martin Taylor says local councils need to start addressing the problem.

"The local government elections are later this year and councillors are on notice to start doing something or they will pay the price of their failure at the ballot box," he says.

"Their ratepayers have a right to be able to go to their local waterhole to cool off in a heatwave without getting sick."

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