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Protecting Lake Taupo

Photograph of Taupo and Lake Taupo

Scientists agree that Lake Taupo is under threat from increasing nitrogen leaching from land uses in the catchment. To just maintain the lake's current water quality, we need to reduce the amount of nitrogen coming from farmland and urban areas by 20 per cent.

As the local government agency responsible for the lake's water quality, Waikato Regional Council works  with Taupo District Council, central government, Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board, other agencies and groups to find the best solutions for both the lake and the community. 

Variation to the Waikato Regional Plan: Lake Taupo Catchment

Waikato Regional Council's  "Variation No. 5 - Lake Taupo Catchment" to the Waikato Regional Plan was proposed in 2005, and became operative on Thursday, 7 July 2011 - refer chapter 3.10 of the Waikato Regional Plan.

The variation contains policy and rules to manage land use in the catchment, with some farming practices controlled or requiring consents. It also contains tighter controls for new urban development in the Lake Taupo catchment.

The rules include:

  • limits on the annual average amount of nitrogen leached from rural land use activities – dairy and drystock farming will require resource consents
  • limits on the amount of nitrogen leached from new wastewater discharges (on-site or community systems)
  • requiring a high standard of nitrogen removal from wastewater systems near to the lakeshore
  • allowing nitrogen offsetting between properties to provide flexibility for landowners to meet the new rule requirements.

Policies in the variation include:

  • working with Taupo District Council and other stakeholders to promote community wastewater upgrades
  • working in partnership with Tuwharetoa as kaitiaki of the lake
  • supporting the 2020 Taupo-nui-a-Tia action plan to recognise and provide for other environmental, social, cultural and economic values when managing land use change
  • supporting research and development into profitable and viable low nitrogen rural land uses
  • using public funds administered by the Lake Taupo Protection Trust to reduce manageable nitrogen losses to the lake by 20 per cent.


Find out more

Background  section 32 RMA report. 
This report outlines the different approaches considered, along with their respective costs and benefits, and presents the Council’s preferred approaches.

Protecting Lake Taupo strategy 

Protecting Lake Taupo: the strategy and the lessons
The report draws directly from interviews with key informants such as agency staff, landowners and Government Ministers, recording their recollection of the process. The farmers chosen for interviews were individuals who had regularly engaged in detailed consultation discussions with council staff

Application of the Policy Choice Framework to Lake Taupo Catchment [PDF, 273 KB]
This report looks at the biophysical, institutional and landowner context in the Lake Taupo catchment from 1999 to 2008.

The report retrospectively applies the Policy Choice Framework, which is a systematic method for selecting policy instruments to achieve natural resource outcomes. The Lake Taupo catchment was chosen as a case study because the council wanted to understand the far reaching implications of a novel and unprecedented policy intervention to cap and trade diffuse sources of nitrogen. Find out more in the technical report

Lake Taupo Protection Trust.