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Funding Proposal For Lake Hayes Misses The Point

Polluters must help foot the bill to clean up Lake Hayes.

A proposal by Otago Regional Council to make residents who live immediately around the polluted lake pay most of the restoration cost is unfair, Otago Fish & Game environment officer Nigel Paragreen says.

"By failing to target those responsible for the degradation of Lake Hayes, the ORC is sending a message that polluters won’t be held accountable," Mr Paragreen says.

"A great deal of the development upstream of Lake Hayes has been in the form of resorts and golf courses, backed by developers.

"These people should chip in for the lake’s rehabilitation."

The ORC is proposing to fund work to rehabilitate the lake as part of its Long Term Plan.

However, the ORC has proposed that nearby residents will be the beneficiaries of the rehabilitation work and therefore should pay most of the costs.

Many of these people live outside the Lake Hayes catchment and could not have contributed to the issues.

Much of the large-scale development has occurred higher in the catchment and is outside of the area slated to pay the majority of rehabilitation cost. Those developers will not pay targeted rates.

Some targeted ratepayers live downstream of the lake.

"The cost of rehabilitating Lake Hayes is being thrust upon the public by the actions of people who have mismanaged land in the catchment over the past 80 years.

"When working out who foots that bill, it’s only fair that those who profited from the pollution be the ones paying for the rehabilitation."

The people the ORC has identified as "beneficiaries" to the project are victims of environmental degradation.

For many years, Lake Hayes has suffered from terrible water quality and sedimentation as a result of land use and development in its catchment.

This is a mix of urban and agricultural land uses.

Otago Regional Councillor Alexa Forbes thinks the ORC’s financial model that apportions economic benefit of restoration is flawed, and sets a dreadful precedent for other such projects.

"The economic benefit model is not appropriate for environmental remediation which actually benefits everyone," Cr Forbes says.

"In the case of Lake Hayes, the very people doing the work to plan and implement restoration are also being asked to contribute the bulk of that project’s funding. Those living next door to polluted, degraded areas are not those who caused the problems, and should not be asked to shoulder the majority of the fix-up costs.

"It’s time we started thinking about how we fund all of our rehabilitation projects so that we don’t run into this inequity again."

Submissions on the LTP are being accepted until May 16, 2021.

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