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Investigation into Rotorua Lakes pollution crisis

Nick Smith National Environment Spokesperson

10 September 2003

Commissioner to investigate Rotorua Lakes pollution crisis

National Environment Spokesperson Nick Smith today welcomed the decision of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to undertake a formal investigation into the Rotorua Lakes pollution crisis.

"This inquiry is needed because the lakes are an environment disaster and the Government has failed to take the problem seriously," Dr Smith said.

"When I first raised this issue in March, the Government dismissed it as a local issue. At last the problem is being recognised as a national environmental disaster.

Dr Smith wrote to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on 17 July seeking an inquiry. The Commissioner confirmed in writing today that he is to proceed with an inquiry and will finalise the terms of reference once the Government has released it's report on the issue.

"This issue is broader than the current crisis over the pollution of Lake Rotoiti. Algae bloom pollution from increased nutrient flows could wreck so many of New Zealand pristine lakes. The issue also highlights structural failings in our environmental systems when you have multiple Government and local agencies passing the buck over such a serious environmental issue.

"I hope the Commissioner's report will provide some guidance on these system failures so in future these problems might be addressed more quickly.

"Action and not just reports is what is most needed for Lake Rotoiti. There should be an immediate programme to fence off all access for farm animals from the lake to prevent further fouling, and progress on a proper sewage scheme for residents to replace septic tanks. There is also an urgent need to appoint an overall coordinator for a lake recovery programme," Dr Smith said.

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