The Community and Public Health division of Canterbury District Health Board has issued a health warning after high concentrations of blue-green algae (planktonic cyanobacteria) was found in Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere.

People and animals, particularly dogs, should avoid Te Waihora/ Lake Ellesmere until the health warning has been lifted.

Dr Ramon Pink Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, says the algal bloom can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals; people should avoid contact with the water until further notice. 

“Exposure may cause skin rashes, nausea, stomach cramps, tingling and numbness around the mouth and fingertips. If you experience any of these symptoms visit your doctor immediately and please let your doctor know if you have had contact with the lake water,” Dr Pink says.

No one should drink the water from the lake at any time, Dr Ramon Pink says. Boiling the water does not remove the toxin.

Animals that show signs of illness after coming into contact with algal mats should be taken to a vet immediately.

Fish and shellfish can concentrate toxins and their consumption should be avoided. If fish are eaten, remove the gut and liver and wash in clean water.

Environment Canterbury monitors the lake weekly during summer and the public will be advised of any changes in water quality that are of public health significance.

Facts about cyanobacteria:

 The algae occur naturally but can increase rapidly during warmer months.

  • If the water is cloudy, discoloured, or has small globules suspended in it, avoid all contact.
  • Not all cyanobacterial blooms are visible to the naked eye and toxins can persist after the blooms disappear.
  • Cyanobacterial concentrations can change quickly with changing environmental conditions (e.g. wind). If a health warning is in place avoid contact with the water.


For further information visit https://www.ecan.govt.nz/your-region/your-environment/water/swimming-water-quality/


Or contact Community and Public Health on (03) 364 1777.