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Threats to Lake Omapere

19 February 2001 Media Statement

Threats to Lake Omapere


The Trustees of Lake Omapere have threatened to sue the Government for damages and to seek a Court direction for the Government to "repair the lake", the Minister for the Environment, Marian Hobbs said today.

She said the threats were contained in a letter to her from the company that sells grass carp for weed control, acting on behalf of the Trustees.

Lake Omapere is a large (1200ha) shallow lake in Northland that is being overrun by weeds. When the lake weeds collapsed in 1984/85, the lake smelled badly, and the water was unfit to drink and contaminated the stream flowing from the lake into the Hokianga Harbour. There are now signs that the lake will collapse again. The Lake Trustees have introduced grass carp to control the weed and have sought $2.8 million from the Government to release more.

Ms Hobbs said that she visited the lake last December to talk to local people and better understand the issues.

"At that meeting I said that I was advised by scientists that introducing carp at that time was unlikely to save the lake," she said. "I said that I was interested in working with the Northland Regional Council, Trustees and farmers to develop a long-term management plan for the lake. I made a commitment to seek technical advice and to ask hard questions. I have done this, but unfortunately there are no easy answers."

The Minister met with two experts from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. They confirmed her earlier view that grass carp most likely would be unable to save the lake at this late stage.

"I must say that I find it a little rich that the Trustees, supported by some others in the Far North, are now threatening the Government," Marian Hobbs said. "The bed of the lake is vested in the Trustees and the lake's waters are managed by the regional council. I think that the Government would find it very hard to justify spending $2.8 million on a project that may not succeed.

"Furthermore, I see this lake as primarily a regional issue. Nevertheless I am willing to help the region if sensible proposals are put forward".

The Minister has asked the Northland Regional Council, NIWA and the Ministry for the Environment to work with local people to identify the best way to manage the lake. She has also asked them what can best be done for the lake in the short-term, as collapse appears inevitable. This would result in the preparation, by the Regional Council and the Trustees, of a comprehensive management plan for the lake. This needs to focus on lake and catchment management, understanding the nutrient balance and management measures that are sustainable in the long term.

The Minister has also asked them to investigate any methods that could be used to accelerate the recovery of the lake.

"I recognise that it will not be pleasant to live near or downstream of the lake. However, we need to look at what is most effective for the lake in the long term, and not throw good money away on short term fixes" said Ms Hobbs.

ENDS

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