| 17 Oct 2023

Find the best spot to swim before you dive in this summer

Swimmers are urged to stay up to date on the quality of their favourite South Canterbury lakes, rivers and beaches to confirm they’re safe to swim in this summer.

When you’re heading for a swim, don’t forget to look out for water quality information signs or visit ‘Can I Swim Here?’ section of the Land Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website at www.lawa.org.nz to view the latest information.

Each summer season, Environment Canterbury checks the health of 32 popular swimming sites around around the region and advises which waterways contain unsafe levels of bacteria or cyanobacteria (toxic algae). Exposure to these could be harmful to swimmers’ health.

Based on the most recent tests, swimming is not recommended at five sites across the South Canterbury region:

  • Near the stormwater outlet “Whale Creek” at West Caroline Bay
  • Pareora River at Evan’s Crossing
  • Pareora River at Pareora Huts
  • Ewarts Corner boat ramp at Lake Opuha
  • Waihao River at Black Hole.

Te Whatu Ora Medical Officer of Health, Dr Matthew Reid says each site will have a warning sign to tell swimmers it’s not safe to swim there.

“Its important people follow the recommendations on the signage to avoid the possibility of becoming seriously ill from swimming at sites with unsafe levels of bacteria or toxic algae,” he says.

All other sites tested around South Canterbury are currently considered safe for swimming, please check www.lawa.org.nz for the latest information as the water quality could change during summer.

“Swimmers are urged to avoid getting in the water within 48 hours of significant rainfall as heavy rain can wash contaminants into our waterways, reducing the quality of the water within a short period of time,” says Dr Reid.

“If people heed the warnings and take care to avoid the water during this time, we can all have a safe summer enjoying our beloved waterways.”


River locations where the water quality is considered good include Waihi Gorge, Otaio River Gorge, Opihi River at Saleyards Bride and Waipopo Huts.

Swimming is not recommended at Evan’s Crossing and Pareora Huts on the Pareora River and the Black Hole on the Waihao River.

All other locations are safe for swimming.


Lakes in Mackenzie District – summer holiday hotspots - are considered safe for swimming, with the exception of Ewarts Corner boat ramp at Lake Opuha, where swimming is not recommended.


Caroline Bay is a safe place to swim near the yacht club and at the midpoint of the bay, but swimming is not recommended at West Caroline Bay, near the stormwater outlet ‘Whale Creek’.


Editor notes:

The agencies involved in South Canterbury’s joint recreational water monitoring programme have different but complementary roles.

  • Environment Canterbury (ECan) carries out the sampling, analysis and reporting of single samples and long-term grades
  • The National Public Health (part of Te Whatu Ora) undertakes health risk assessment and issues and removes temporary health warnings based on results of testing.
  • District Councils inform the public about health risks (including the installation of signage onsite).

For further information, contact:

Karen Berry
Communications Manager
Te Whatu Ora South Canterbury  
021 139 7442