Calls for better water quality testing after Christchurch beaches closed despite 'superb' result

Some of the Garden City's summer hotspots have been creating a bit of a stink in recent weeks.

There are health warnings on the internet and 'no swimming' signs on a number of beaches - due to high levels of faecal bacteria. 

But local businesses say the warnings are affecting foot traffic and are overstated and they've got their own tests to prove it.

Ōtautahi turned up the heat this week but turned some heads as well.

"I missed the signs, where is the sign, where are the signs?" one local told Newshub.

Advice to steer clear of swimming was no match for the sun. 

"If it's a stinking hot day, I'm going for a swim, I'll take the risk," said another.

Over the past week, several bays around Lyttelton Harbour were deemed 'unswimmable' due to a high faecal bacteria count. 

Heading out for a dip isn't recommended when test results show a reading over 280, per 100 millilitres of water. 

So when a result of 1467 registered on Thursday December 29, foot traffic at Corsair Bay where Neil Porter sells ice creams dried right up. 

"Selling beautiful ice creams, I'm the hero - so I went from hero to zero," Porter said.

Dan Abel is an ocean swimming instructor and holds regular lessons and competitions in the area. 

He's unconvinced by the week-old reading, so he commissioned his own tests with surprising results coming back last Thursday.

"The test came back superb, so all we ended up was confused."

Environment Canterbury, like most regional councils across the country, conducts weekly water testing. 

If an unusual result is recorded, follow-up tests would usually take place. 

But with it being the summer holidays, labs have been closed at times throughout the break. 

There are calls for testing to be taken more seriously at the height of summer. 

"Six days of the week at least we have no idea what's going on in the water actually, it's just a risk assessment," Abel told Newshub.

"We're testing many, many sites around Christchurch, but there are a specific few where the public swim a lot. They need to be tested lots."

The 'unswimmable' label has hurt local swimmers and businesses.

"It's only busy for six weeks between Christmas, and the end of January," Porter said. 

"I can't sustain this too much longer without closing down."

Abel is calling for a more rigorous and focused test program.

"I think the public would agree with that."

Because no one wants to refrain from the wet, cool stuff on a baking hot day.