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HEALTH HAZARD

THE disappearance of warning signage at a popular yet frequently contaminated swimming spot at Wainui is a mystery to community members and the district council.

Gisborne District Council is trying to figure out what happened to signage that previously graced the lagoon at the mouth of Hamanatua Stream near Okitu Bridge and Wainui Surf Life Saving Club.

On the council's website, residents are advised not to swim in the lagoon because of contamination from run-off from surrounding farmland.

A quick walk around the lagoon and adjacent carpark reveals no signage warning of the health risks of swimming in the lagoon, which is a popular spot for children over summer.

Wainui Surf Life Saving Club patrol captain Luke Whibley said he saw people in the lagoon “every day”, and that it was particularly busy on a low tide when the waves were dumping.

“Often parents will take little kids with boogie boards in there, mainly on the low tide here, or when the waves are a little bit bigger to avoid the waves,” he said.

“They'll go in there thinking it's a better option . . . it's skanky.”

Those concerns were echoed by Wainui resident Bess Halley, who said children were naturally drawn to the lagoon because of its calm nature in contrast to the adjacent ocean.

She believed the water was seldom clean because it wasn't flushed into the ocean with regularity.

“The reason kids like it is that it's sheltered from the sea but that means the water is stagnant and not getting a regular flush from the seawater,” she said.

“Parents don't always know the water quality is low and poor, and that their kids might get sick from swimming in there.”

Meanwhile, the council is trying to find out what happened to a sign previously erected at the beach, warning of the risk of swimming in the lagoon.

A council spokeswoman said the sign had “disappeared” and they were looking into a replacement.

“We can't always put signs in all places to warn of all hazards but acknowledge that there are some places that it's prudent to do so.

“This location is one of them given the number of people who swim in that estuary.”

According to Land Air Water Aotearoa (LAWA), Hamanatua Stream has two main catchments that are located inland from the Wainui Beach and Okitu residential areas.

LAWA says the catchments are increasingly influenced by the intensification of use of the land under subdivision and the lagoon is frequently used for swimming despite demonstrating high coliform bacteria levels.

Hamanatua Stream and Wainui Beach water quality are tested weekly during the summer months.

Credit: Liam Clayton. Caption: The stream and lagoon is located next to Wainui Beach and the surf lifesaving patrol tower.
Credit: Ben Cowper. Caption: A view of Hamanatua stream from the air.
on patrol: Luke Whibley and Theo Weatherley have been patrolling Wainui Beach over summer. Luke says he has seen people swimming in the Hamanatua Stream lagoon every day. The council advise against that due to health risks from contamination and signage used to be up at the site warning people about it, but the signage has mysteriously disappeared. Picture by Matthew Rosenberg/LDR
swimming spot: The Hamanatua Stream lagoon (pictured above) next to Wainui Surf Life Saving Club at Okitu is a popular swimming spot, particularly when surf is heavy, but water testing has found high coliform bacteria levels there and swimming is not advised. Picture by Ben Cowper