Residents keep fishing and taking their dogs and
grandchildren swimming in Lake Waihola, despite toxic algae
warning signs that are scaring away potential holiday-makers
and business from the lakeside town.
Lake Waihola Cafe & Bar owner Kevin Reid (62) said he
took his black Labrador Tess for a swim in Lake Waihola, even
though the signs warned ''dogs may die if they eat toxic
He also took his four grandchildren water-skiing and swimming
in the lake at Christmas, despite the warning ''people should
avoid contact with it''.
His dog and grandchildren were in good health, he said.
He had seen the algae in the lake before Christmas. The Otago
Regional Council had kept the warning signs up, even though
the `luminous green layer'' had disappeared and
holiday-makers had been scared away, he said.
The council was ''covering their butts'' while staff were on
holiday, and Waihola businesses had suffered financially, he
Mr Reid had offered to collect daily water samples for the
council and transport them to Dunedin for testing, so results
could determine whether the lake should remain open or be
''If it's contaminated, then let's close the gate. If it's
not, then let's say that.''
The council declined the offer because testing was too
expensive, he said.
Waihola Yacht Club treasurer Christopher Hogg said a school
cancelled a sailing course booking because of the algae
warning, which cost the club $400.
Lake Waihola Holiday Park manager Mary-Jo Nardone (50) said
when the council released news of a possibly toxic algae
bloom, about 10% of customers cancelled their Christmas
bookings. Several of the 60 permanent caravans at the park,
which she expected to fill, had remained empty and the park's
customer forecast was down about 25%, Miss Nardone said.
''A lot of people are scared.''
The council could have worded the warnings better, rather
than spreading the message ''stay away from Waihola'', she
Camping ground resident Bert Russell (85) said he fished at
Lake Waihola most days and often steamed whole perch or trout
for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He had fished the lake for
40 years and the fish were bigger and tastier than ever, he
On Sunday, he caught a 2.5kg trout about 10m from his caravan
site and he urged anglers to fish the lake.
''The more the merrier.''
Otago Regional Council director of environmental information
and science John Threlfall said daily toxicity testing was
not possible because the results could take up to a week and
toxicity levels could have changed.
The latest tests had shown the algae was non-toxic and the
council was testing weekly, he said.
''The advice we are passing out now is, if you see a lot of
the algae don't swim in it, and don't go near it. Work around
it and assume that you'll be OK ... It's not the all-clear.
It's just be sensible.''
The warning signs remained in place at Christmas because
there was a health risk before and after Christmas and the
council was not being overcautious, he said.
''I'd do it again.''
New warning signs were being made with ''toned-down''
language about the risk, he said.