Health warning issued for Lake Rotorua and Ōhau Channel

By Jessica Tyson
A blue-green algal bloom / Photo credit: Paul Scholes, Bay of Plenty Regional Council

A health warning has been issued for Lake Rotorua and the Ōhau Channel after the Bay of Plenty Regional Council has reported a bloom of potentially toxic blue-green algae. 

Holdens Bay, the Ōhau Channel and the eastern side of the lake are most affected but the bloom could rapidly shift or affect other parts of the lake, the council says. 

Medical Officer of Health Dr Neil de Wet says people should avoid any activity that results in contact with the lake water or channel water.

“With high levels of blue-green algae in the lake, activities such as swimming or water skiing could expose people to toxins when in the water, as well as through inhaling droplets of water spray.”

Contact with water affected by blooms of blue-green algae can cause asthma and hayfever attacks in some individuals, de Wet says.

"Contact with the blue-green algae can also cause skin rashes, stomach upsets and, in some cases, neurological effects such as tingling around the mouth, headaches, breathing difficulties and visual problems."

de Wet advises the public to keep an eye out for signs of algal blooms if going to lakes in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts. 

“Algal blooms can develop rapidly and unpredictably and can sometimes produce toxins that are harmful for people as well as animals. If the water looks discoloured, has an unusual smell, or has green or brown particles floating in it, then it is best to avoid contact with it.” 

Signage is being erected at Lake Rotorua advising potential lake users about the algal bloom and sampling and testing are underway. Up-to-date information on health warnings for the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts is available here.