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Toxic algae identified in Tukituki River

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Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is urging swimmers and dog owners to stay alert for toxic algae in the Tukituki River after multiple blooms have been identified near Walker Road in Central Hawke’s Bay.

Regional Council Water Quality & Ecology Monitoring Team Lead Jordan Ellmers says toxic algae poses potential health risks for people and dogs if touched or ingested.

“We’ve had a spell of long, hot days in Hawke’s Bay - river levels are dropping, and water is moving slowly, creating the perfect environment for algal growth. The mats can vary in colour from brown/black when in the water to a pale brown/whitish colour when dry and should not be touched.”

“Toxic algae can emit a musky smell that’s particularly appealing to dogs. Once they’ve had a sniff, it can be hard to stop them from licking or eating it. As we begin to see toxic algae appearing in the shallows, we also encourage people to keep an eye on small children paddling in these areas as they are more likely to swallow water or touch algae and put it in their mouths.”

During summer, the Regional Council environmental monitoring team tests sites weekly along the Tukituki River, with additional sites on the Tūtaekurī and Esk rivers. The Walker Road section of the Tukituki River is currently listed as unsuitable for swimming on the Land Air Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website.

“It’s not possible to survey the entire length of each river, so people need to be aware of the risks at their swimming spot and take precautions when visiting. Toxic algae can detach from rocks and drift downstream to different parts of the riverbed, so always check the water before you take a dip,” says Ellmers.

Te Whatu Ora Medical Officer of Health Dr Bridget Wilson advises that anyone who gets sick after being in a riverbed should seek medical advice urgently from either their doctor or Healthline on 0800 611 116. Swallowing water containing toxic algae can cause serious illness with symptoms that can include vomiting, diarrhoea, and skin rashes.

Any dogs or other animals that appear unwell or are sick after being at the river should be seen immediately by a veterinarian.

Signage advising of toxic algae and associated risks has been installed at the Tamumu Bridge entrance while repair work is completed at Walker Road.

For comprehensive information including how to identify toxic algae and its potential risks, visit Toxic Algae | Hawke's Bay Regional Council (

Further information on water quality at rivers, visit Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) - Hawke's Bay region.

17 January 2024

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