Auckland beaches are set to get a little safer this summer.
That's thanks to a forecasting programme that will provide real-time water-quality forecasts and public health alerts for 84 of the region's beaches.
The initiative is part of an ambitious plan by Auckland Council to improve water quality in the region.
It's not quite swimming weather yet, but soon thousands will jump into the water.
Safeswim is a website that provides beachgoers with constantly updating information about a whole range of things they need to know.
"They can make informed choices at what's going on at their local beach," said Auckland Council chief operating officer Dean Kimpton.
"Is it safe to swim there today from a water-quality perspective? Have we got rips or tide issues, are there jellyfish?"
Even shark sightings are on the website, but a more common issue for Aucklanders has been water pollution.
"There's quite a lot of issues in times of infections, gastroinstritis, skin infections, ear and eye infections that people can get, if the water is contaminated," said Auckland Regional Public Health Service medical officer David Sinclair.
That's information that used to take days to be made public.
"We'd go out and sample after a weather event, we'd grab that information and 3-5-7 days later, that information would be made available to the public," said Mr Kimpton. "So we've closed that gap."
Surf Life Saving hopes it'll prevent drownings.
"Last year, our life guards rescued nearly 400 people, most of those in rip currents," said Surf Life Saving Northern Region operations manager Adam Wooler.
"So if people can become aware and use this website as an information point, that would be great."
There'll also be new signs on the patrolled beaches, like the forest-fire warnings we already know about.
Those signs start popping up longer term, the Safeswim website will give the Council data it needs to improve water quality.
Water quality is one of Auckland’s big issues.
Unfortunately it has been an invisible one for many years, and for that reason has not received the attention that it deserves. It is long overdue for it to become visible.
With your support, SASOC has already been able to play a significant part in raising awareness of the pollution of our beaches and inland waterways from overflows of sewage and stormwater. As you know from our mid-year report, our primary focus has been on upgrade of the combined wastewater/stormwater pipe network that serves the central Auckland isthmus.
From our discussions with Auckland Council and Watercare executives, it is clear that there is now a consensus that the solution lies in better management of stormwater – which is the root cause of most overflows.
Council will shortly put in place two major plans for the future of the city – a refresh of the “high level” Auckland Plan setting goals for the next 30 years, and the more specific financial plan for the next 10 years. It is vital that water quality becomes a central plank in these plans, and that Council commits to funding for an upgrade programme that starts now.
Together with other community organisations we have been meeting Auckland councillors and local board members, and calling for early public consultation so the citizens of Auckland can have a say on a preferred option for putting the sparkle back into Auckland’s waters.
SASOC’s members between them represent a large number of Auckland’s citizens.
Your voices need to be heard.
David Abbott Dirk Hudig
027 479 5764 021 0279 0800