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Published: 2003-11-18 00:00:00

Environment Waikato today released its strategy to protect Lake Taupo, for public discussion and feedback.

The Protect Lake Taupo Strategy has been prepared in response public concern about declining lake water quality. Scientific studies show that the Lake’s water quality is declining as a result of increased nitrogen loading in the Lake.

Before land around the Lake was developed, only very low concentrations of nitrogen entered the Lake from rain and areas of bush. Over the last 40-50 years, the change to more intensive land uses around the Lake has increased the amount of nitrogen entering the Lake.

The proposed Plan aims to reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the lake by 20 per cent over the next 15 years. The changes could cost as much as $83.5 million in today’s dollars.

Announcing the Protect Lake Taupo strategy, Environment Waikato Chairman Neil Clarke said the economic future of the Taupo district was largely based on the Lake’s national and international appeal as a recreational and tourist attraction.

“We have seen the disastrous effects of increased nutrient loading on other lakes in the country. Our plan is to take action now to ensure that the high water quality of Lake Taupo is protected. Any delay will only make the job harder, longer and more expensive.”

The Plan proposes a range of planning, economic and lifestyle measures to reduce nitrogen runoff into the lake. These include:

  • higher environmental standards for urban development in the district
  • upgrading community sewerage schemes
  • changing farm management systems in rural areas to limit nitrogen runoff
  • new ways of using land in rural areas that produce low levels of nitrogen
  • conducting research into alternative, low-nitrogen land uses in rural areas.

These proposals would be supported by a fund established through a partnership between the Regional Council, District Council and Central Government. Mr Clarke said there was a commitment by the three partners to help fund the transition process, but we still need to decide the fairest allocation of these costs.

“This strategy breaks new ground. There is no single answer, no silver bullet, to save the Lake. It requires the support of all stakeholders.”

Mr Clarke acknowledged that the cost of change will affect most stakeholders in the catchment. Although many of the stakeholders agree with the principles in the strategy, there is not yet agreement on what is a fair and equitable sharing of the burden of change.

“There is clearly going to be some discussion around land use restrictions and how they should be supported. We welcome the community’s views on this matter. “

“We will continue discussions over the next couple of months to identify the fairest way to share the costs between district, Regional and national contributions. But we do recognise that Lake Taupo is a national treasure which we all have a stake in.”

Mr Clarke said that Environment Waikato wanted to get community feedback on the proposals. Following that feedback Environment Waikato and Taupo District Council would publish their draft Annual Plans and Long-Term Council Community Plans in March which would contain specific proposals to achieve the outcomes the public had asked for. Formal submissions can then be made on these draft plans and funding proposals.