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Swimming in Hawke's BayTe kounga kaukau ki Te Matau-a-Māui

Use this page to check if it's safe to swim at your local river or beach. Our science team check the water quality at popular swimming spots over summer. You can also find out about the risk of toxic algae.

Cyclone Gabrielle - Important information! DO NOT SWIM

All swim spots in Hawke's Bay have a high or very high risk of contamination following Cyclone Gabrielle. DO NOT SWIM. The HBRC recreational water quality programme is currently on hold as all sites are considered unsuitable for swimming, and access to many locations has been impacted. A warning remains in effect

 Check you're 'good to go' swimming

Our science team regularly check water quality at 37 popular swimming spots over summer so you can make sure it’s safe to swim at your local beach or river. Use the 'Can I swim here' web app below to quickly check you're good to go! 

We only show the most popular spots on this app - if your swimming spot doesn't appear, head to LAWA here. You'll also find lots more information about all the spots we check, and if you are heading away you can find other swimming spots throughout New Zealand on the LAWA website.

Find more information + more swimming spots at LAWA

Reminder about swimming after rain, and rule of toes.

When we have had heavy rain, it flushes debris and pollution from town and rural land into waterways. This is why we advise you not to swim for 2 – 3 days after heavy rain – even at places that generally have good water quality.  Check that the water is clean and clear before taking a dip too. A handy guide is:  if you can't see your toes when standing knee-deep in water, then the water quality is not the best for a swim.

Clive River, Waipuka Stream and Puhokio Stream are generally less suitable for swimming and playing in as they sometimes have higher bacteria levels. The Clive River and Puhokio stream are tested every two weeks as they have signs up warning of the health risks at all times. The Regional Council, community groups and landowners are working to improve water quality in these places.​​

Watch some useful videos

What is Toxic algae (Phormidium)?

Phormidium is a potentially toxic algae and it can be dangerous to human and dog health. It is naturally found in rivers all year round but can be a risk to humans and dogs during the hotter months of the year. Find out more in our frequesntly asked questons on the right.

We’ve created a dashboard to give you information so you can make the best decision for yourself, your family, and pets.

The District Health Board will put up signs at sites where toxic algae could be a risk to human health. This information is also for dog health. Conditions can change quickly, so for up to date information see the information below.


Toxic algae, sometimes called Phormidium, happens naturally in shallow, stoney rivers, like the Tukituki. It looks like a mat that forms on rocks. It can be black, brown, green, or grey. When the river level drops, the algae can be seen on stones or at the sides of rivers which dry in the sun. Find out more on this webpage.


Yes, dogs love the strong musty smell of toxic algae mats, which is a problem as it interests them to go and find out more. Dogs will often eat the algae if given the chance, and only a small amount can be dangerous. Watch the video on this page to find out more.

  • Look for warning signs, listen to news, alerts from LAWA, and Facebook posts from us - Hawke's Bay Regional Council | Facebook
  • Check for signs of the algae in the river, on exposed stones, and at the side of rivers
  • Look around while at the river, don’t allow dogs or children to play at the water’s edge if you think it might be present
  • Prepare by taking drinking water for your dog
  • Take your dog to a vet if it appears ill after going in a river
  • Take any children to a doctor if they become ill.
Living toxic algae: Thick dark brown or black mats attached to rocks under waterLeft image Phormidium Black and Brown
Living toxic algae: Mats floating in shallow waters usually with air bubblesMiddle image Live or Dead mats

Dead toxic algae: Attached or detached from rocks, the mats can be wet or dry and be grey, white, black, or brown

Right image Live or dead mats floating

To find out more about phormidium and its effects, check out:

Warning Signs for the Tukituki Catchment

We know that the Tukituki catchment sometimes has high levels of Toxic Algae (Phormidium) during the summer months.

There are signs at areas where there may be more Phormidium during a typical summer. The risk of contact with Phormidium can change in quickly, so it's important for the public to be very careful and look out for the algae. Phormidium is easy to spot,  and the signs show images of what to look out for. You can also find more information on this page about what to look out for.

The District Health Board are responsible for this signage, and updates are posted on the Regional Council and the DHB’s Facebook pages.

Risk map for Hawkes Bay

While some of the highest levels of toxic algae have been found in the Tukituki catchment, it can grow in other rivers in the region, so always keep a look out, particularly in stony bottomed rivers.

We have created a risk map below. We know that Phormidium growth happens over the hotter months.

Toxic algae does not always produce toxins, but we advise people and dogs to avoid contact with it anyway. There are 3 ways you, your child or your dog could have contact with toxic algae:

  • Eating the algae. This is the greatest risk, because some dogs are attracted to rotting mats that are out of the water. While the chances of illness are not high, eating the algae can sometimes be severe. Even the smallest amount of black mat algae could cause severe illness or death.
  • Skin contact with toxic algae. Some people can come out in rash if the algae touches bare skin, and there is then a risk of a young child putting the fingers in their mouths after they have touched it.
  • From river water. It is unusual for animal and humans to get ill from toxins in the water. However, national guidance suggests that risk increases when algae covers over 50%  of the river bed in the wetted area (i.e. Red alert on dashboard)

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While every endeavour has been taken by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council to ensure that the information on this website is accurate and up to date, Hawke's Bay Regional Council shall not be liable for any loss suffered through the use, directly or indirectly, of information on this website. Information contained has been assembled in good faith. Some of the information available in this site is from the New Zealand Public domain and supplied by relevant government agencies. Hawke's Bay Regional Council cannot accept any liability for its accuracy or content. Portions of the information and material on this site, including data, pages, documents, online graphics and images are protected by copyright, unless specifically notified to the contrary. Externally sourced information or material is copyright to the respective provider.

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