We’re working together with locals to improve water quality in the Waitao catchment and make Kaiate Falls swimmable.

The Kaiate Falls are on the Kaiate Stream, which flows into the Waitao River and ends in the southeast corner of Tauranga Moana. The Falls are a popular spot for visitors and locals to enjoy but are not currently safe for swimming due to unsafe levels of E.coli faecal bacteria in the Kaiate Stream.

A Toi te Ora Public Health permanent health warning has been in place for the Kaiate Stream since 2015. Swimming in water that has high levels of E.coli increases people’s risk of becoming sick with symptoms that can include diarrhoea, vomiting, and skin, eye or ear infections.

Together with landowners, hapū, technical experts, Ngā Whenua Rāhui, Western Bay of Plenty District Council and the Waitao Landcare Group, we’re working to identify and address the main sources of bacteria and other contaminants in the Kaiate Falls and wider Waitao catchment.

Approximately 60 percent of the main river-banks in the Kaiate Stream catchment have now been fenced and in many cases planted, to improve water quality and wildlife habitat in the area. 


Bacteria sources

Since 2015, we’ve increased our water quality monitoring and research efforts so that we can better understand the main causes of the poor water quality and explore new solutions. So far we’ve found that:

  • Ruminant animals (cows, sheep, deer or goats) are the main source of faecal bacteria in the Kaiate Stream.
  • Birds are also a source of bacteria at some Kaiate Stream locations, probably as a result of nesting and feeding activity above the Falls.
  • Bacteria are entering the Kaiate stream from a number of different tributaries, including one with extensive forest cover, in an unpredictable manner.
  • Other water quality and ecological health indicators such as temperature, nitrate and ammonia levels in Kaiate Stream are good compared to national and regional guidelines.
  • Summer monitoring results show that E.coli bacteria levels improved from 2007 until 2014-15, but unsafe levels have been regularly in the Kaiate Stream each summer since then.

Keep in touch

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More information

You can see the latest swimming water quality monitoring results for Kaiate Falls and other locations throughout the region at www.lawa.org.nz.

Weekly sampling results for the 2019/20 swimming season are available for live viewing. Previous region-wide recreational waters surveillance reports undertaken by Bay of Plenty Regional Council can be found in Environmental publications.

A Million Metres Streams Project has been established by Waitao Landcare Group and a local landowner. See the project web page to find out how you can make a donation or help with fencing and planting upstream of the Kaiate Falls.  

Landowners can access practical advice and funding support for work on their properties that improves water quality by contacting their local Land Management Officer.

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03 Dec 2019


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