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Published: 2004-03-12 00:00:00

Waikato Region residents know that Lake Taupo’s health is declining and support approaches to protect it – but they’re concerned about the effect of proposed actions and their costs.

Environment Waikato surveyed the Regional community, Taupo residents and absentee Taupo ratepayers on the proposals put forward in the Protecting Lake Taupo Strategy over November and December last year to collect feedback on the proposals.

The survey – through deliveries to residents and the Council’s magazine EnviroCare - was answered by 1762 people. A total of 93 percent of respondents were aware of the Lake’s problems and people mentioned they had noticed changes in clarity, weed growth or quality.

Leaching from agricultural land was seen as the main source of nitrogen affecting the lake, with three quarters saying it was the main source, followed by sewage from urban areas (32 percent) and diverted water entering the lake. Those living in urban areas or outside the Waikato Region were more likely to cite rural land leaching as the main source, while those over 60 were more likely to say sewage was the main source.

The economic effects on farming and increased sewage treatment costs were the two issues identified as of most concern. Also concerning was risk for new land ventures, effects of rural land values and effects on Treaty rights for Maori land. Those living in rural areas were much more likely to be concerned about economic effects on farming.

The best approaches to protect the lake included rules to upgrade sewage treatment (74 percent), rules to restrict nitrogen from rural land (71 percent) and research into low nitrogen land uses and management systems (70 percent).

About three quarters of respondents thought a joint fund might have a role in the solution, with just under half supporting a joint fund to help change to low nitrogen land uses.

Most (84 percent) thought everyone in the Taupo District should have the most say or some say in the way land around the lake was managed. Seventy one percent thought rural landowners should have the most or some say, while 69 percent thought urban people in the Taupo District should have some say.

Just over one in five thought everyone in the Waikato should have the most say but a relatively high 16 percent thought everyone in the Region should have the least say. Just over a quarter thought all New Zealanders should have the most say but a quarter also thought all New Zealanders should have the least say.

Nearly a third agreed that the people of the Region and District should pay more rates to protect the lake’s health, but a quarter disagreed –mostly rural people, those outside Taupo, older people and Maori or other ethnic origin. There was a clear theme, especially amongst those less willing to pay, that the lake was a national asset and all New Zealanders and Central Government should contribute.