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Funding to improve Lake Rotoiti water quality

Funding to improve Lake Rotoiti water quality

Funding of $7.2 million towards improving Lake Rotoiti’s water quality was announced today by Environment Minister Marian Hobbs and Health Minister Annette King.

The funding targets short-term measures that should result in a marked and quick improvement in the lake’s water quality.

Up to $4 million over the next two financial years will contribute to urgent remedial engineering works to improve the lake’s water quality.

A further $3.2 million has been approved to address related sewage disposal issues through the Sanitary Works Subsidy Scheme (SWSS), which is administered by the Ministry of Health.

"Rotorua is on an important tourist circuit with over half a million international visitors each year," Marian Hobbs said. "Lake Rotoiti is a key tourism asset but the water quality has been deteriorating over many years and it has become significantly worse in the last few years. We want to see it cleaned up.

"We recognise the importance and value of these lakes to Te Arawa and to the stories from this area."

The lake's algal blooms are also a public health problem. Annette King said that swimming in the lake at times is a health risk and had been banned for parts of the recent summer.

The SWSS payment of $3.2 million covers 50 percent of the cost for reticulating and transporting septic tank sewage from Mourea and Okawa Bay lakeside settlements to Rotorua’s sewage plant (subject to resource consent approval). The Rotorua District Council will fund the remaining 50 percent. .

Environment Bay of Plenty estimates it requires approximately $10 million for short-term remedial engineering works at the lake. Central government has allocated up to $4 million to the Ministry for the Environment to assist with this.

The main cause of Lake Rotoiti’s degradation is years of excessive nutrient inputs from septic tanks, livestock and other farming practices in the catchment.

Marian Hobbs says the health risks posed by the lake water justified the funding being approved in advance of the government's Water Programme of Action which will identify "waters of national importance" and manage the effects of land use on water quality.

"The long-term health of Rotorua lakes, like Taupo, will be improved only by changed land use in the catchment," Marian Hobbs said. "And just as Environment Waikato has led out the work for Taupo we would expect EBOP to give similar leadership in Rotorua.

"Central, regional and local government all have a role to play in restoring Lake Rotoiti’s water quality. I must acknowledge the efforts of the Mayor of Rotorua, Grahame Hall, the chair of EBOP, John Cronin, the Te Arawa Maori Trust Board chair, Anaru Rangiheuea and the local MPs Steve Chadwick and Mita Ririnui.

"We have a collective responsibility to protect the health of our communities and New Zealand's reputation for a pristine and clean green environment."

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