Spotlight on Council’s science programmes over summer

This summer, Horizons Regional Council is highlighting some of the environmental science and monitoring programmes that underpin Council’s policies and decision making.

Wherever possible, this information is made publicly available, with Horizons swim spot monitoring results providing just one such example this summer. 

Horizons chair Rachel Keedwell says Council’s vision for the region is Tō tātou rohe – taiao ora, tangata ora, mauri ora / Our place – a healthy environment where people are thriving.

“Horizons’ science and monitoring programmes help us to report on the state of our environment and informs our decisions, including refining our approach, to ensure that we target the right issues with the right actions,” says Cr Keedwell.

“A summer science series, running now until the end of March, will be placing a spotlight on just some of Council’s environmental science programmes with a particular emphasis on freshwater, biodiversity, and climate change.

“The health of freshwater is one of our priority areas, with our research and monitoring activities helping to determine how water is allocated, how quality can be maintained and improved, and how use is changing over time. 

“This work involves measuring river flows, groundwater levels, rainfall levels and water quality, and using this information to report, analyse and support policy and programme decisions that are made about this valuable resource.

“Recognising Te Mana o te Wai and ensuring that we are leaving our environment in a good state for future generations, drives many of Horizons’ freshwater activities.

“We also want to ensure that when our communities use our rivers, lakes and beaches for recreation that they have access to the latest water quality results.

“That is why each year between November and April, our science team monitors the health of 80 swim spots for potentially toxic algae (Cyanobacteria) and E.coli at freshwater sites, and Enterococci at coastal sites.”

Horizons science manager Lizzie Daly says E.coli and Enterococci are indicators of faecal contamination that at high levels indicate a potential risk to human health.

“Weekly samples collected from each of the region’s monitored swim spots are sent to an independent accredited lab for testing,” says Dr Daly.

“Results for these two indicators are received within 48 hours.

“Cyanobacteria appears as black mats on rocks in rivers and as green scum in and above water in lakes. These mats eventually peel off the rocks and wash up on river banks. Cyanobacteria can produce toxins that are harmful to humans and dogs.

“Horizons’ research assistants have been trained to identify Cyanobacteria at swim spot sites and update the results on the LAWA website as soon as practically possible.

“All results are updated on the Land Air Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website,, where interactive maps show each of the swim spots tagged by a red, amber or green location maker to indicate whether it is safe to swim that week.”

Cr Keedwell says from swim spot monitoring and freshwater management, to enhancing biodiversity and planning for climate change, Horizons 300 staff members can be found in the wider Manawatū-Whanganui Region throughout the year collecting environmental data, fixing barriers to native fish passage, managing pest plants and animals, and planting to prevent nutrients and sediment entering waterways.

“Over the next few months we look to highlight some of our key science programmes and those that we work with which includes tangata whenua, iwi, central government and Crown Research Institutes, our regional council counterparts, the region’s city and district councils, and catchment care and community groups.

“I encourage you to follow Horizons Regional Council’s social media accounts and keep an eye out for the next edition of Across the Region, which will be in letterboxes early next year.”