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Published: 2001-02-02 00:00:00

Environment Waikato has already been taking action to improve the condition of Lake Waikare, which a Canadian engineer has pronounced “dead”.

Ron Coley – who was brought to New Zealand by Ducks Unlimited to report on the wetlands - said the area was an embarrassment to New Zealand.

Environment Waikato Resource Information Group Manager Tony Petch said the Council was well aware of the lake’s poor health and was awaiting a decision from the Environment Court on appeals to consent decisions on the lake’s flood gates. The conditions would allow improvements to water quality by amongst other things providing a fish pass to promote a healthy ecosystem.

“This is a very shallow lake, about 1-1.5 metres deep, and many of the issues relate to re-suspension of sediment stirred up by wind and waves, preventing aquatic plants which act to stabilise suspended sediment from becoming established. About 80 percent of this sediment comes from the Matahuru Stream which drains large areas of steep and erodable land.”

The lake also forms part of the flood control system for the Waikato River and it is vital in managing large floods. In the 1998 flood it played a major part in storing the flood wave and protecting low lying land down stream from flood waters.

Dr Petch says the pest fish koi carp are prevalent, eating small invertebrates and stirring up the mud.

“As part of the consent process we are also proposing to fence more than 20 kilometres of streams draining into the catchment. This will reduce sediment entering the lake.

“We are proposing actions to clean up the lake and are awaiting the outcome of the appeal process to we can start work to enhance the health of the lake.”

Freshwater ecologist Grant Barnes said the decline in water fowl numbers was caused by a combination of many factors – wetland loss throughout the Region, dry climatic conditions, and hunting pressure.

“Lakes are only part of a productive wetland system. The areas next door to lakes that regularly flood are highly productive wildlife areas. Environment Waikato supported the construction of the weir within the Whangamarino wetland, which aims to address many of the concerns raised by Ron Coley.”

More work is also proposed under Project Watershed to improve lake conditions.

Environment Waikato, Waipa District Council, DoC and the Fish and Game Council were working together to develop an accord to improve lake management.