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New rules to protect Lake Taupo for all New Zealanders

Environment Waikato is concerned national farming lobby Federated Farmers is fuelling uncertainty about the future of farming in the Taupo area by misrepresenting regional council plans for protecting Lake Taupo.

Chairman Peter Buckley said the council’s relationship with farmers in the Taupo area had never been better and he was disappointed that Federated Farmers outgoing president Charlie Pedersen had claimed changes to land use rules under the Resource Management Act (RMA) were choking farm businesses.

“The new land use rules to protect Lake Taupo were adopted by Environment Waikato after extensive consultation with the Lake Taupo community, including local farmers who have largely supported the changes,” Mr Buckley said.

“If Federated Farmers have a beef with the RMA, they’ve picked the wrong example to try to support their case - the development of rules to protect Lake Taupo shows how effectively the RMA works for communities.”

The Waikato Regional Plan Variation 5 aims to protect the water quality of Lake Taupo for future generations of New Zealanders by introducing new policies and rules for land use and sewage treatment. These cap the amount of nitrogen entering the lake at historic levels ensuring existing farmers can continue ‘business as usual’ in the catchment.

Cr Andra Neeley, who has been involved with the Protecting Lake Taupo project since its inception in 2001, said it was ironic that Federated Farmers continued to challenge the plan change.

“Markets hate uncertainty and the longer the process is extended through court challenges and alarmist statements the more uncertainty there will be around land values and the future of farming in the catchment,” she said.

“The fact is farmers’ rights to farm as they do today have been protected by the grandparenting clauses in the plan change.”

Environment Waikato moved to protect Lake Taupo when scientific evidence revealed its pristine water quality was under threat from increased nitrogen entering the lake from surrounding land.

Any serious decline in the quality of the lake water would be difficult to reverse, and failing to act would have economic, social and cultural consequences for our region and our country.

At its monthly meeting in Hamilton yesterday, the council heard that nine parties had appealed the plan change to the Environment Court.

Over the last year, Environment Waikato has been successful at resolving most issues, agreeing to changes sought by farmers to provide more certainty and allowing more flexibility for owners of forestry and undeveloped land.

Yesterday was the last day of hearings and the court is expected to issue its decision in a few months.

Meanwhile, to support the Regional Plan change, the Government, Taupo District Council and Environment Waikato are investing $81 million over a 15-year period to help protect the lake.

The parties, along with the Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board, have established the Lake Taupo Protection Trust, the job of which is to reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the lake by 20 per cent.

The trust will fund projects that will help land owners reduce the nitrogen impact of their activities on Lake Taupo.

As the legal and planning issues near resolution, Environment Waikato, land owners and the Lake Taupo Protection Trust can confidently start planning the long term protection of this internationally renowned natural treasure.

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