A joint agreement to protect the near-pristine waters of Lake Taupō has been extended by two years to enable project partners time to plan for the future.
Although starting many years earlier, the agreement for the ‘Protecting Lake Taupō’ project was formally signed in 2007 – a ground-breaking partnership between Waikato Regional Council, Taupō District Council and central government, working with Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board and local landowners to prevent a decline in water quality.
As part of the project, the Lake Taupō Protection Trust was established with the specific goal of reducing the amount of nitrogen being discharged into the lake from pastoral land by 20 per cent – a single, but critical factor responsible for water quality.
In July 2015 the Lake Taupō Protection Trust – charged with administering a public fund of $79.2 million – completed its final nitrogen purchase, reducing the manageable nitrogen discharge to the lake by 20 per cent (170 tonnes).
“This was a fantastic achievement, which has attracted international acclaim. But we need to ensure we have the resources and management structure in place to look after these contracts and protect this significant public investment beyond the life of the trust,” said Waikato Regional Council chair, Alan Livingston.
“The two year extension to the end of June 2021 allows time for the partners to finalise preferred options and transition to a new long term governance and management regime, as well as secure ongoing funding for oversight of the contracts once the trust has wound up,” said Taupō District Mayor, David Trewavas.
The fund was one component of a suite of initiatives undertaken by the project partners to improve lake water quality. It built on the gains already achieved by Taupō District Council to reduce nitrogen being discharged from urban sources by upgrading its wastewater treatment.
A new cap-and-trade policy was also introduced by the Waikato Regional Council (Waikato Regional Plan Variation 5), which set strict limits on the amount of nitrogen being discharged from pastoral land. The extension to the project agreement will also enable the partners time to understand what may come of a review of this policy, which is being carried out as part of the 10 yearly review of the Waikato Regional Plan.
The focus has now moved to a monitoring phase to ensure continued compliance with nitrogen reduction targets and nurturing an ethos of kaitiakitanga (stewardship, guardianship and protection) of the lake.
Tangonui Kingi from the Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board and current chair of the Lake Taupō Protection Project Joint Committee said: “Ultimately, this project is about leaving a cleaner legacy for future generations and protecting our taonga, the national treasure, Lake Taupō.”
Shaun Lewis from the Ministry for the Environment said: “The Crown, through the Ministry for the Environment and Ministry for Primary Industries, will continue to provide backing and support for the project through to June 2021.” He congratulated the partners on their strong working relationship and for the goodwill between the agencies involved.