CLEAN BEACH: Nikolai Arnold, 6, with his granddad Kim Kjaer-Olser of Brisbane, enjoying the beautiful Seven Mile Beach, in Lennox Head.
CLEAN BEACH: Nikolai Arnold, 6, with his granddad Kim Kjaer-Olser of Brisbane, enjoying the beautiful Seven Mile Beach, in Lennox Head. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Seven Mile, Evans Main Beach, Shark Bay top our beaches

WHEN visiting Brisbane grandfather Kim Kjaer-Olsen chose Seven Mile Beach to swim at yesterday, he said he did so for the pristine white sand and crystal-clear turquoise water.

His instincts were spot-on, according to the latest State of the Beaches report which has graded the Lennox Head beach's water as among the cleanest in the State. Also scoring top marks in the report are Shark Bay and Main Beach, Evans Head.

On the North Coast, only Ballina, Richmond Valley, and Kempsey beaches were included in this year's report.

The annual scorecard, released by Environment Minister Rob Stokes yesterday, shows that 97% of 144 NSW ocean beaches monitored by Beachwatch were graded as good or very good.

The report was started 25 years ago by the Greiner government in response to community anger about water quality at our beaches, Mr Stokes said.

"Our performance is improving out of sight," Mr Stokes said.

"Water quality improved at 29 sites this year, moving from good to very good."

Swimming sites are monitored by Beachwatch and local councils, with water quality graded as very good, good, fair, poor or very poor in accordance with the National Health and Medical Research Council's 2008 Guidelines for Managing Risks in Recreational Waters.

The State of the Beaches report's summary for Ballina and Richmond Valley councils' beaches.
The State of the Beaches report's summary for Ballina and Richmond Valley councils' beaches.

The grades are determined from the most recent 100 water quality results (two to four years worth of data, depending on the sampling frequency) and a risk assessment of potential pollution sources.

Of the North Coast swimming sites monitored this year, only Lake Ainsworth East and West and Shaws Bay East and West were graded as poor.

The four sites dragged down an otherwise solid performance for Ballina swimming spots. They were excluded in 2010-11, when Ballina scored 100% in the report for having all beaches ranked as good or very good. Their inclusion in 2011-12 dragged Ballina's score down to 83% and in the past two years it has sat at 60%.

On the other hand, Richmond Valley Council was top of the class, being the only North Coast council area to score a 100% rating for having a good or very good rating on all its beaches.

More broadly, the NSW South Coast topped the state for water quality with the Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla, and Bega Valley councils scoring "very good" on most beaches with a few coming in as merely "good" and none with a lower rating.

Estuarine swimming spots were susceptible to pollution following heavy rainfall, the report noted, and it was recommended swimming at estuarine beaches be avoided during and for up to three days following rainfall, or if there are signs of stormwater pollution such as discoloured water or floating debris.

While Byron Shire's beaches were not included in this year's report, Byron fared well in the 2012-13 report despite heavy rainfall and flooding events over the 2012-2013 swimming season. In that report, nine Byron Shire beaches were graded as good, and only Simpsons Creek at Brunswick Heads graded as poor.



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