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Policy launched to protect Lake Taupo

Environment Waikato today announced policy details of its long-term strategy to protect Lake Taupo.

The policy sets up a series of proposed rules which “cap” the amount of nitrogen entering the lake from rural and urban sources to prevent the decline in the lake’s water quality.

Environment Waikato Policy Committee chairman, Lois Livingston, said the proposed new rules were likely to have most impact on rural landowners, as about 93 percent of manageable nitrogen entering the lake came from stock effluent on farmland leaching through soil into groundwater and rivers, and ultimately into the lake. The remaining 7 percent of manageable nitrogen came predominantly from urban wastewater, such as sewage and septic tank seepage.

“Nitrogen feeds the growth of tiny free-floating algae, which reduce the water’s clarity. 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,” she said.

Environment Waikato intends to restrict the amount of nutrients entering lake water by proposing a ‘Variation’ or change to the proposed Waikato Regional Plan for the Taupo catchment to ‘cap’ nitrogen entering the lake.

The proposed new rules will affect landowners within the Taupo catchment to varying degrees:

Rural landowners: The main impact of the proposed variation is likely to affect rural landowners in the Lake Taupo Catchment area, such as farmers and foresters. Rural landowners will have a “cap” on the amount of nitrogen leaching from their properties.

Urban landowners: In urban areas, the nitrogen problem will be addressed by the Taupo District Council’s planned upgrading of community wastewater systems.

Lifestylers and rural bach owners: On rural residential blocks, properties will have to meet low stocking rates and fertiliser application standards. And in the case of individual landowners who are not part of community wastewater systems, they will need to meet appropriate domestic on-site wastewater standards. New houses on small rural lots will be required to have a high standard wastewater system.

In addition to the proposed Variation as a means of protecting Lake Taupo, Environment Waikato has established an $81.5 million fund with Central Government and Taupo District Council to help reduce nitrogen levels by at least 20 percent by 2020. The fund will be used to change land uses to lower-nitrogen producing activities, such as converting pastoral land to forestry.

Environment Waikato ratepayers contribute through a targeted $18 rate which will raise 33 percent of the fund, while Taupo District Council ratepayers fund 22 percent and Central Government contributes the remaining 45 percent.
“The proposed Variation and the fund are designed to protect Lake Taupo’s water quality for future generations, with on-going benefits for tourism, fishing, drinking water, aquatic pursuits, and the overall quality of life,” Lois Livingston said.

Key rural stakeholders will get a detailed information pack about the proposed changes. Anyone can make a submission on the proposed Variation and submissions close at 5 pm on Friday, September 2, 2005.

More information is on Environment Waikato's Freephone 0800 800 401 and the website www.ew.govt.nz/taupovariation(external link).

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