Lake Taupō water quality plan three years ahead of schedule

  • Nick Smith

A joint Government and council initiative to reduce nitrogen leaching into Lake Taupō by 20 per cent, or 170 tonnes per year, has achieved its goal three years ahead of schedule, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith announced today.

"Lake Taupō is New Zealand's largest lake and is famed internationally for its deep, clear waters. There have been concerns since the 1990s of deterioration linked with increased levels of nutrients and the occasional algal bloom. This milestone by the Lake Taupō Protection Trust of finalising land use agreements that will reduce nutrients by 20 per cent secures the lake's long-term water quality for the region and New Zealand," Dr Smith says.

Nitrogen leaches into the water through the ground and stimulates algal growth. The development and intensification of rural and urban land over the years has been found to be increasing the amount of nitrogen entering Lake Taupō through groundwater and rivers.

“Today’s milestone has been achieved through land purchases and land use changes by the Lake Taupō Protection Trust – this means buying land in the lake’s catchment, as well as reaching agreements to alter the activities carried out on surrounding properties so as to minimise emissions,” Dr Smith says.

The Lake Taupō Protection Trust was established seven years ago and was tasked with permanently removing 20 percent of the nitrogen entering Lake Taupō. The Trust – which reports to central and local government and the local iwi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa – is funded by $79.2 million from the Ministry for the Environment, the Waikato Regional Council, the Taupō District Council, as well as local farmers and foresters.

“This project is the first of its kind in New Zealand and has received international acknowledgement from the OECD as a unique and innovative environmental policy that provides a model for other parts of the world. It is also a good example of how a collaborative approach can deliver real and lasting gains for our environment,” Dr Smith says.

“The way that nitrogen leaches into water over time means that the full gains from this project won’t be realised for some decades. This project is about protecting the health of Lake Taupō both in the short- and long-term, and the milestone we are celebrating today will ensure this lake remains a treasure for future generations to enjoy.”