Safeswim impact evaluation. Have improvements to Safeswim changed Aucklanders’ awareness and behaviour?

Jesse Allpress, Alexandra Clark, Esther Rootham, Ting Huang
Auckland Council Research and Evaluation Unit, RIMU
Publication date:

In November 2017 a new and improved Safeswim water quality reporting programme was launched in Auckland.

An evaluation of the new Safeswim programme reveals changes to the programme had a number of positive impacts on beach users’ awareness and behaviour:

  • Awareness of Safeswim and regular usage of the website has increased notably.
  • Awareness that it is sometimes unsafe to swim due to pollution is high and has increased since November 2017.
  • A culture of telling friends, family and other beach users about Safeswim is developing and  provides fertile ground for future behaviour change efforts.
  • Media coverage of water quality issues has increased dramatically since the new Safeswim programme was launched, most of which mentions Safeswim.
  • Interest amongst beach users in learning more about Safeswim and water quality is high.

However, much work is to be done to broaden this awareness and further motivate behaviour change:

  • Around half of all beach users still have not heard about Safeswim.
  • Many of those who have heard of Safeswim are not in the habit of using it regularly.
  • On-beach signage is inconsistent and requires review.
  • There remains widespread misunderstanding of what is causing poor water quality and the likelihood of getting sick after swimming in polluted water.
  • The general awareness of water quality issues at Auckland’s beaches is often not translating into accurate perceptions about the beaches people visit regularly. Many visitors rated the water at Safeswim long-term no-swim sites as being of better quality than Auckland overall.

The evaluation reveals a number of opportunities to improve Safeswim and further change behaviour:

  • An evidence-based behaviour change campaign is proposed to increase awareness and to motivate further behaviour change.
  • Improvements to website functionality are suggested to make Safeswim easier and more attractive to use.

Auckland Council technical report TR2018/004

See also

‘Nudging’ visitors to notice Safeswim signs


Last updated: 2018-04-06