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Lake Omapere Action Plan Underway

Sustainable management of Northland's Lake Omapere is the key to an action plan to ensure the lake’s on-going survival, Environment Minister, Marian Hobbs, said today.

"The government recognises that the lake is very important to Ngapuhi and the people of Northland," she commented when releasing the government response to the Maori Affairs select committee report on problems facing Lake Omapere.

The lake is suffering from excessive weed growth, which if left unchecked, could cause the lake to collapse affecting aquatic life and water quality. The issue is less pressing now as much of the weed has died back over the last few months.

In its response the government said it has already taken action on three of the committee's five recommendations. It has agreed to support a project, led by the Northland Regional Council, to promote sustainable management of the lake. The Ministry for the Environment will maintain an overview and work closely with the Council, lake trustees, Department of Conservation and Te Puni Kôkiri.

"Fortunately, with the weed dying back, there is no longer a need to make instant decisions about what is best for the lake," Marian Hobbs said. "In saying that, the Ministry for the Environment, other government agencies, and local authorities are committed to doing all they can to assist the lake's trustees to best manage the lake long-term."

As well as the management plan, and consistent with the Committee’s recommendations, Te Puni Kôkiri has investigated the status of the title to Lake Omapere and staff have been in contact with the Trustees to assist them.

The Minister of Conservation, Sandra Lee, said she was pleased a holistic approach was now being taken in addressing the lake's environmental woes.

"I am hopeful that this action plan will lead to a progressive improvement in the health of the lake in the years ahead," Sandra Lee said. "The lake is a source of food for the local Maori people and provides habitat for a number of species of native wildlife."
Ms Lee said the government does not accept the select committee’s finding that the Department of Conservation failed to give proper effect to its Treaty of Waitangi obligations under section four of the Conservation Act 1987.

The Crown Law Office found that the department’s Treaty obligations needed to be balanced against its national conservation role and the responsibilities of the lake’s trustees.

Lake trustees had maintained that the failure of the department to approve release of weed-eating grass carp in 1996 contributed to the lake's weed problem. The Crown Law Office examined this assertion, and concluded that a cautious approach by the department was appropriate in the case of grass carp.

"As the effect of grass carp in the wider Northland area was unknown it was appropriate for the Department to require a management plan to be put in place before approving the release of the carp," Sandra Lee said.

The Department of Conservation will continue to work with the trustees and the Northland Regional Council, particularly to offer expert advice on issues like the ecology of native freshwater organisms, Sandra Lee added.

Ends

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