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Manawatu-Wanganui region

Can I swim here?

The Horizons Region is carved by three major river systems, the Manawatū, Whanganui, and Rangitikei - all linked to a number of tributaries and complemented by beaches on both the eastern and western coasts of the North Island, as well as numerous lakes.

At Horizons, we recognise the importance of being well informed and that is why every summer we monitor over 80 swim spots to provide you with reliable information on the potential health risks in our waterways. 

Two university graduates are employed to gather samples from each swim spot. These are sent to an independent accredited laboratory to test for faecal indicator bacteria - E. coli for freshwater and enterococci for coastal waters, as well as cyanobacteria (toxic algae). 

Each site is graded according to a traffic light system as recommended by the Ministry of Health. The weekly results are published on an intereactive map on Horizons' website, and LAWA's 'Can I Swim Here?' pages below.

In addition to our monitoring programme, Horizons runs a complementary campaign to help inform, educate and engagae our communities on when and where they can safely swim. This year, this will include a poll for listeners of Mediaworks and Ski FM radio stations to vote for their local swim spot to receive a spruce up such as last year's winning spot, Mosquito Point, recently received. 

Winning photo at Cone Creek from Di Simpson

We will also be running our #swiminourregion competition, given you a chance to share where you are swimming on social media and be in with a chance to win a $1,500 water related prize. Last year's winner took her school class on a whitewater rafting adventure down the Rangitikei River in December!

In addition to the data shown here, you can be a good judge of the suitability of a swim spot on site using the following guidelines:

  • If the water looks clean and clear, it should be safe to swim.
  • It is safest to wait for the water to clear after rain before swimming in rivers.
  • In high flow, swimming in rivers is never recommended regardless of E. coli levels.
  • Health-risk at ocean beaches is almost always low.
  • Be mindful of potential risks when swimming; hazards in natural environments can include cliffs, sunken logs, rocks and trees in rivers, and rips at beaches.
  • If musty smelling, black slimy mat-like growths are observed on river bed stones during low river flows, it is safest for you and your dog to avoid using the river.

Our swim spot monitoring programme is one of the methods we use to help inform our work programmes, policies, and partnerships, such as the Manawatū River Leaders' Accord, Horowhenua Lake Accord, One Plan, and the Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI) - all of which contribute to improving water quality within our Region. We also work with city and district councils to ensure their wastewater treatment plants are performing as they should be, and with landowners and community groups to create riparian planting strips to absorb nutrients and filter run-off before it enters our waterways, and fencing streams and rivers to exclude livestock.

While we understand there is always room for improvement, these activities are proactive measures that we know will pay off in the future.

Horizons traffic light system


Monitored sites in the Manawatu-Wanganui region

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