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Published: 2015-01-06 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council is this summer undertaking a special monitoring programme of 18 coastal sites on the Coromandel Peninsula that are popular swimming locations.

The programme will measure water quality and assess what effects rivers and streams and other factors may have on these locations. Results will be used to support priority stream restoration works programmes and thereby continue to preserve the Coromandel’s water quality. This work will also help prioritise the council’s coastal water quality science projects and the development of future monitoring programmes.

“We don’t know as much as we’d like about the water quality at these locations. This programme will give us an indication of the general water quality at the time of the year when population pressures are at the peak and that will inform our future work,” said Hilke Giles, leader of the council’s coasts, land and wetlands team.

This programme follows a range of matters raised by the community through harbour and catchment management works programmes and community engagement through land care activities. The sites are spread around the peninsula on both the east and west coasts. The project is conducted jointly by the council’s integrated catchment management and science and strategy teams.

“Local people have raised a range of general concerns about water quality at these sites so we’re going to do some testing to check out exactly what’s happening,” said Coromandel area manager Emily O’Donnell.

While the Coromandel has generally good water quality, concerns raised about downstream sites often used for swimming and recreation over summer include elevated faecal bacteria levels (particularly as the water warms up), build ups of algae at times, and smells from water in sheltered areas, Ms O’Donnell said.

“We’re not aware of anything that poses a current or imminent risk to people but this is about being proactive in response to community concerns and checking things out, and ensuring we can enjoy these amazing coastal locations. Our testing programme will help us determine if there are potential problems or sites where we need to investigate further and how we go about addressing any issues.”

Dr Giles said the monitoring will include a range of standard water quality tests (concerning oxygen, nutrients, suspended sediments and faecal bacteria). “Where faecal bacteria levels are high we will also send samples to the Cawthron Institute for faecal microbial source tracking. This method uses ‘genetic markers’ to identify the presence and relative contributions of human and ruminant animal sources of faecal contamination.”

Ms O’Donnell said the findings from the testing will be known in the middle of 2015 and will help determine any extra works or other activities needed to improve water quality.

Already, significant gains in supporting the improvement of water quality had been made around the Coromandel Peninsula with fencing and planting of streams, wetlands, forest fragments and erosion prone areas over the last 10 years.

“The combined efforts of more than 160 landowners, along with the council and others, have seen the planting of nearly 145,000 eco-sourced native plants, 160 kilometres of fencing to keep stock out of rivers, streams, wetlands, forest fragments and erosion-prone areas, and more than 1000 hectares retired from active use for environmental reasons,” said Ms O’Donnell.

The 18 sites to be monitored include specific locations at: 

 

Wigmore Stream, Kuaotunu Stream, Stewart Stream, Ramarama Stream, Taputapuatea Stream, Tarapatiki Stream, Tohetea Stream, Pepe Stream, Graham’s Creek, Pitoone Stream, Otama River, Otahu River, Taiwawe Stream Purangi River, Whangarahi Stream, Manaia River, Te Puru Stream and Te Mata Stream.