Beachwatch consultation reinstated

The NSW Government is giving Sydney coastal councils an additional 12 months’ consultation before the implementation of the Universal Beachwatch Partnership Program which provides information on water quality at our beaches and waterways.

Aerial view of swimmers at Bronte Beach

In July 2022, the former government decided to expand the cost sharing partnership model which has been in place across regional New South Wales since 2002, to include 14 Sydney coastal councils which currently do not pay for water quality sampling and laboratory analysis.

Under the current Beachwatch program, Sydney coastal councils do not share the costs with the NSW Government, but regional councils do. The proposed changes were designed to make the system equitable and manage growth of the Universal Beachwatch Partnership Program to more areas.

Consultation was supposed to start in late 2022 to give councils 18 months’ notice before the decision came into effect in July 2024. However, the consultation was deferred until December 2023. Sydney coastal councils have provided feedback on several issues regarding the proposed changes, including that 6 months' consultation is not sufficient for them to plan for and consider the transition.

The NSW Government has listened to this feedback from councils, and is reinstating the 18-month consultation period, which will now run through to June 2025.

This will allow for further consultation on changes to the funding model and design of the program.

Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe is writing to the 14 affected coastal councils to inform them the proposed changes will not go ahead until mid-2025, following further work on the program design.

The 14 Sydney coastal councils are Bayside, Canada Bay, Georges River, Hunters Hill, Inner West, Lane Cove, Mosman, North Sydney, Northern Beaches, Randwick, Sutherland, Waverley, Willoughby and Woollahra.

Quote attributable to Minister for Climate Change and the Environment Penny Sharpe:

'Beachwatch is an important program for those who visit our beaches and waterways, and for councils that work with Beachwatch to detect and respond to emerging pollution problems.

'The NSW Government is committed to ensuring an equitable service and good program design for all councils across the state.

'We are dedicated to genuine partnerships with councils, and look forward to working with them to ensure Beachwatch can give the community confidence to swim in more waterways across New South Wales.'


Background information:

Beachwatch provides daily advice on swim site suitability for people to choose if and when to swim.

In response to pollution from Sydney’s ocean-wastewater outfalls, in 1989, Beachwatch commenced providing water quality monitoring at no cost to Sydney coastal councils.

At present, Beachwatch monitors 97 swim sites within 14 local government areas in the Sydney coastal area at no cost.

Since 2002, regional councils and wastewater managers have participated in the Beachwatch Partnership Program. Currently there are 10 regional NSW councils and two wastewater managers (Hunter and Sydney Water Corporations) who have funded their own sampling and analysis across 128 swim sites.

The 2022–23 budget provided $18.5 million over 10 years to deliver the Universal Beachwatch Partnership Program statewide and support all NSW councils to be able to opt in from July 2024.

Under this model, the Universal Beachwatch Partnership Program will provide a centralised coordination, data management, technical support, quality control, audit, and reporting services, while local council partners provide water quality sampling and analysis for priority swim sites in their local government areas.