Environment Waikato is committed to cleaning up Lake Taupo, the Council’s Draft Annual Plan says.
Having invested heavily in months of discussions with key stakeholders, it hopes to secure agreement for an action plan to clean up the Lake later this year.
Increased amounts of nitrogen are entering the Lake from surrounding land, affecting its health and increasing algae growth, reducing water clarity. The Council is drafting a strategy to protect the Lake that balances the needs of landowners, industry and the community and reduce manageable sources of nitrogen – from pastoral farming and urban wastewater - to the Lake by 20 percent.
Some nitrogen comes from rainfall, native bush and pine forest, but the rest comes from human activity. Over the last 50 years, more farmland has been developed, sheep, beef and deer farms have intensified, some dairying has also developed, and there are more lifestyle blocks and holiday homes, increasing the amount of nitrogen flowing into the Lake.
Increasing amounts of chlorophyll (an indicator of tiny free-floating algae) and a doubling of nitrate in the Lake’s bottom waters between 1974 and 2001 show the Lake’s water quality is worsening. Not all the changes from increased nitrogen have yet been seen as water takes 20 years or more to pass through the Lake system.
The Council says that even if it takes action now, the Lake will continue to get worse before it gets better. The Taupo community has strongly agreed that it wants to keep the Lake clear and healthy.
Environment Waikato is working with Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board, Taupo District Council, affected landowners and Central Government to ensure Taupo has a strong economy and community, as well as a healthy Lake. It is also talking with Taupo Lake Care, which represents the majority of farmers in the area, and Tuwharetoa economic authorities.
The Council is also working with Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board on ‘2020 Taupo-nui-a-Tia’, a three-year project to develop a long-term plan for sustainable development of the catchment.
Environment Waikato will be promoting low nitrogen land uses over the next 15 years to help the transition to sustainable land use in the catchment. It is also making a legal change (‘variation’) to the Waikato Regional Plan to provide a regulatory backstop. The variation will be open to public submissions when it comes out later this year.