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Green light for lake catchment land use scheme

Cabinet decision green light for lake catchment land use scheme

A Cabinet decision to allow a re-allocation of funds within the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme is being welcomed by the programme partners.

The re-allocation of $24 million in Government funding means a proposed $48 million incentive scheme, to help landowners in the Lake Rotorua catchment with the cost of land use management and land-use change needed to reduce land-use nutrient loss, can now go ahead. The incentive scheme, which will also receive funding from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, will support new rules that will set nutrient loss limits in the catchment.

Approval from Central Government was required as the re-allocation is a change to the deed funding agreement which saw the Crown contribute half of the $144 million needed to help restore four priority lakes in the Rotorua region. The Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme is a joint partnership between Rotorua District Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Te Arawa Lakes Trust.

“This is great news for the programme and means we can progress the introduction of a scheme to help landowners make land-use and land management changes needed to achieve the community’s aspirations for Lake Rotorua,” Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Strategy Group Chairman Sir Toby Curtis said.

“Water quality in Lake Rotorua is improving but the challenge now is sustaining that improvement in the long term and that’s the aim of the rules and incentives scheme. It is very pleasing that the Government is supporting our approach.”
Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chairman Doug Leeder said the decision showed ongoing Government support for the work being done by the lakes programme.

“The Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme is leading the way in New Zealand in water quality management and the Cabinet decision to allow the re-allocation of funds represents a significant milestone,” he said.

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick, who is vice-chair of the Strategy Group, also welcomed the Cabinet decision.

“This is great news and a relief to have the decision now, ahead of the Elections. The lakes programme is hugely important both for our local community and nationally, and we want to do whatever we can to help our landowners make the changes necessary to achieve our goals for Lake Rotorua. It will provide more support for farmers to seek solutions for land use change.”

Chairman of the Stakeholder Advisory Group (StAG), Dr Tanira Kingi of AgResearch, said Cabinet’s decision would provide reassurance for landowners.

“The scheme will introduce rules around nutrient loss and this funding will help to offset the cost of change to landowners,” Dr Kingi says.

About the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme
· In 2008 the Government agreed to contribute $72m to implement the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme, half the total cost of $144 million. The rest is being funded jointly by the Rotorua District Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

· The programme aims to restore four priority lakes – Rotorua, Rotoiti, Ōkāreka and Rotoehu and includes multiple measures to address sources of nutrients entering the lakes.

· Combined interventions including sewerage reticulation, sewerage plant upgrades, floating wetlands and a treatment plant for geothermal nitrogen will reduce the nitrogen load in Lake Rotorua by an estimated 50 tonnes a year. This leaves an annual balance of 270 tonnes to be reduced from the pastoral sector to achieve the 320 tonne reduction target.

· It is proposed the 270 tonnes will be achieved through land-use management (setting nitrogen discharge allowances), land-use change and re-vegetation of areas of gorse (which leaches nitrogen).


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