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Published: 2015-07-21 00:00:00

Collaboration and partnerships have been key elements of the leading edge Lake Taupō protection project which has just been selected as a New Zealand section finalist at prestigious awards in Brisbane.

The selection of the Protecting Lake Taupō Project was announced by the International RiverFoundation after it was entered by Waikato Regional Council. It came shortly after the project partners had themselves announced the securing of a target 170 tonnes a year reduction in nitrogen entering the lake in future.

The Taupō project will compete against three other New Zealand finalists for the inaugural Morgan Foundation New Zealand Riverprize. The winner, to be announced on 22 September, will also have a shot at being named the winner of the prestigious Thiess International Riverprize in 2016

In early 2000, the regional council established the project to protect the iconic lake in response to community concerns, said chairperson Paula Southgate who, along with the Tūwharetoa Maori Trust Board, will give a presentation on the multi-agency protection effort at the Brisbane Riverprize awards.

“At this project’s heart was a partnership between central Government, Tūwharetoa Maori Trust Board, Taupō District Council and Waikato Regional Council, supported by extensive, genuine engagement with rural land owners. We wanted to protect the precious taonga that is Lake Taupō.

“The project has successfully generated political support, engaged numerous sector interests and established policies to protect the lake and retain a vibrant rural community, whilst incorporating the role of the Tūwharetoa Maori Trust Board, as owners of Lake Taupo. It has worked with rural land owners and provided tools and support for on farm change.”

Lake Taupō is the largest lake in New Zealand, valued highly for its crystal blue water and dramatic vistas. These features support an international tourist mecca, a world class fishery and a recreation and retirement centre. The lake is a taonga for Ngāti Tūwharetoa.

However, increasing nutrient flows from rural intensification and urban development resulted in declining water quality which was becoming apparent to the local community.

The Protecting Lake Taupō Project has used science-informed policy to protect the lake by managing all land use in its catchment. Besides changing land use to secure the 170 tonne a year of nitrogen getting into the lake in future, policies have capped the amount of nitrogen that can come from the land and established a trading regime to help ensure rights to discharge nitrogen go to the highest value use.

The Morgan Foundation New Zealand Riverprize is an initiative of the International RiverFoundation, who also award the Australian, European and North American Riverprize as well as the prestigious Thiess International Riverprize, for achieving the best outcomes in river and basin management.