The Minister for the Environment, the Hon David Benson-Pope, today officially launched the multi-million dollar Protecting Lake Taupo Project.
Speaking at the launch in Taupo today, Environment Waikato Chairman Jenni Vernon said the environmental project was like no other.
“It’s special. It recognises three important elements: people – Ngati Tuwharetoa and the local and national community; place – the special features of Lake Taupo that make it special to us; and process – time, community involvement and partnership,” she said.
Taupo Mayor Clayton Stent said this would be a long term partnership to which the council was fully committed to playing its part.
“Taupo-nui-a-tia is a national treasure, but of course holds special value in our district.” He said in addition to local knowledge and expertise, the Taupo contingent bring to the partnership a deep regard and passion for health of the Lake. “We also have an understanding of the importance of the lake as a taonga and its special significance for our local iwi Ngati Tuwharetoa,” he said.
“We have asked a lot of our communities and will continue to do so, and we’ll need to ensure they are kept informed and involved as we go forward,” said Mayor Stent.
A key feature of the project is the establishment of the Lake Taupo Protection Trust, set up to administer the $81.5 million fund provided by Environment Waikato, Taupo District Council, and the Government.
The trust will be accountable to a joint committee, which includes members of the three funding parties – Environment Waikato, Taupo District Council, Central Government, and Ngati Tuwharetoa.
Environment Waikato chairman Jenni Vernon said the trust would use the funds to encourage and assist land-use change, and to purchase land/nitrogen in the Lake Taupo catchment, as well as other initiatives to assist landowners to reduce the nitrogen impact of their activities on the lake.
She said the project was fortunate to have such depth of knowledge and high calibre of experience in the trustees.
The Lake Taupo Protection Trust’s six trustees bring a wide range of skills and experience. They include:
Lake Taupo’s excellent water quality is under threat from the effects of past and current land use activities.
More nutrient-dependent weeds and slimes are now growing near lakeshore settlements, and potentially toxic algae blooms in 2001 and 2003 brought health warnings for Whakaipo and Omori bays. These are unmistakeable signs that the lake is slowly deteriorating.
About 94 percent of manageable nitrogen entering the lake comes from stock effluent on farmland leaching through soil into groundwater and rivers, and ultimately into the lake. The remaining 6 percent of manageable nitrogen came predominantly from urban wastewater, such as sewage and septic tank seepage. Taupo urban ratepayers are contributing to an upgrade of all the urban wastewater sewage systems.
Nitrogen feeds the growth of tiny free-floating algae which impact on the lake’s health and water clarity.
The trust is aiming to reduce this impact by achieving a 20 per cent reduction in nitrogen entering the lake from both rural and urban sources over 15 years.
Environment Waikato has already introduced a proposed ‘Variation’ or change to the proposed Waikato Regional Plan for the Taupo catchment to ‘cap’ nitrogen entering the lake. The variation is expected to be presented to the regional council for approval next month.