media release by the Greater Wellington Regional Council

An amber alert for toxic algae has been issued on the Kapiti Coast after algal blooms were found in Ōtaki River at State Highway 1 and Waikanae River at Jim Cooke Park.

Toxic algae can kill dogs and make people sick. Greater Wellington advises the public to check for toxic algae before entering these rivers. Dogs and children should be kept out of the water until further notice.

Toxic algal mats grow on rocks in the riverbed and form leathery dark green or black mats, which can break off and accumulate on the riverbank.

As detached algal mats dry out, they become light brown and emit a distinctive musty odour that attracts dogs.

Dog owners walking near these sites should keep their animals leashed. Do not let your dog scavenge on the riverbank. Eating a tiny algal mat can kill a dog.

Greater Wellington is currently monitoring popular swimming spots on a weekly basis to make sure the community knows when and where it’s safe to swim.

To know if an area is suitable for swimming visit the LAWA website and check for warnings and alerts in the Wellington region.

To learn how to identify toxic algae visit Greater Wellington’s toxic algae webpage.

If you have been in contact with toxic algae and are feeling unwell, see your doctor or ring Healthline on 0800 611 116.

If you think your dog has swallowed toxic algae and it’s having difficulty breathing, take it immediately to the nearest vet.