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Great news for Lake Rotoiti and Rotorua community

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Great news for Lake Rotoiti and Rotorua community

Thursday 14 September 2006

A major engineering project that could be the “saving grace” of Lake Rotoiti has been given the go ahead by the Environment Court.

Environment Bay of Plenty chairman John Cronin today described the court’s decision as good news for the nationally-significant lake, and for the Rotorua community. “We consider this a very positive decision – the project could well be the saving grace of Lake Rotoiti. With other measures supporting it, the lake now has a chance.”

It is also a huge boost for the Rotorua Lakes Protection and Restoration Action Programme, which is one of the largest of its kind in New Zealand. The programme is a strategic partnership between Environment Bay of Plenty, Rotorua District Council and Te Arawa Maori Trust Board. “So this is a win for all of us,” Mr Cronin says.

In its decision, the Environment Court dismissed appeals against an earlier decision in favour of a wall that would be built in Lake Rotoiti to divert nutrient-laden water flowing into it from Lake Rotorua. The only change it recommends relates to concerns by Maketu and Tapuika iwi about the effects of the diversion on the Kaituna River and Maketu estuary. It recommends Environment Bay of Plenty provide iwi with monitoring data and involve them in development of a strategy plan for the river. “Environment Bay of Plenty has no problem with this, and such discussions are already underway,” Mr Cronin says.

Rotorua mayor Kevin Winters, chairman of the Rotorua lakes joint strategy committee, says the strategic partners will now be re-engaging with the Government over shared funding for the lakes programme. The committee recently met positively with ministers to discuss these issues.

“I’m delighted with the news. I’m really pleased that once again people will see physical works happening to improve lake water quality.”

The wall, which is expected to cost from $14 to $16 million, will now be constructed next year if all goes well.

Project manager Paul Dell says the diversion structure will stand on the lake floor and rise to just above water level. It will start below the Ohau Channel outlet, which links Lake Rotorua and Lake Rotoiti, and extend for about a kilometre to Te Akau Point. It will be about 75m offshore, running paralell to State Highway 33.

“Nutrients flowing from Lake Rotorua through the Ohau Channel are a major cause of Lake Rotoiti’s water quality problems,” Mr Dell explains. Over a year, about 40% of the channel flow goes directly down the Okere Arm and into the Kaituna River. The rest moves around the main body of Lake Rotoiti before exiting and going down the river. This results in a build up in nutrients in the lake.

The wall is designed to block this flow path, so all of the water goes directly to the ocean. Scientists say the change will have little impact on Kaituna River quality. However, to make sure the river stays protected, Environment Bay of Plenty is working with the Kaituna River community to develop a Kaituna River and Maketu Estuary Management Strategy.

The wall is one of a number of measures being taken to improve water quality in both lakes, including a massive sewerage reticulation project by Rotorua District Council.

ENDS

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