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Permanent swimming ban lifted for Lake Tūtira

Karakia before swimming at Tutira adjusted

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has lifted the permanent swimming ban for Lake Tūtira.

Regional Council water quality scientist Andy Hicks says this is an exciting milestone for the lake.

“Tūtira is a beautiful regional park, and it’s great that the water quality of the lake has improved to the point where people can swim in it. Improvements in land management and other factors have contributed to the improvement in water quality.”

“While the permanent ban on swimming has lifted, we do advise that people check the health of the lake before they go for a swim, at #swim,” he says.

“There is still the risk of algal blooms or faecal contamination in the future,  particularly after rainfall. What has changed is our ability to put out real-time warnings,” he says.

The Regional Council monitors the quality of the lake, including the bacteria levels and the risk of algal blooms.

“We have a monitoring buoy in place that checks for algae at all depths of the lake in real time. A new instrument enables our team to check algae levels at different swimming spots every week during the swim season, and lab results on species composition come to us monthly,” he says.

The Regional Council also advises people to put on sunscreen – with phenoxyethanol in it – twenty minutes before swimming to avoid duck itch.

For kaitiaki Ngāti Kurumōkihi, represented by the Maungaharuru-Tangitū Trust (MTT), the improvements are a step in the right direction.

MTT’s kaiwhakahaere matua (general manager) Richard Jefferies says Lake Tūtira is their waiū or milk – providing spiritual and physical sustenance for their tīpuna (ancestors) for hundreds of years.

“We are proud of the work we have undertaken over the past few years, alongside the Regional Council and others, to get to a place where we can enjoy the water again,” he says.

However while this is a wonderful milestone, hapū and whānau are still acutely aware there is much more to accomplish in order to undo the damage done, he says.

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board’s medical officer of health, Dr Nicholas Jones says they are aware of the work the Regional Council has done to establish a better algal bloom monitoring system and support this new approach.

“I would like to reinforce the need to continue to avoid swimming in the lake after heavy rainfall.  If anyone feels ill after swimming at the lake they should contact their GP, or call Healthline on 0800 611 116.”

26 February 2021

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