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Otago Fish & Game environment officer Nigel Paragreen said a proposal by Otago Regional Council (ORC) to make residents who live immediately around the polluted lake pay for most of the restoration cost is "unfair".
"By failing to target those responsible for the degradation of Lake Hayes, ORC is sending a message that polluters won’t be held accountable," he said.
"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."
For many years, the lake had suffered from atrocious water quality and sedimentation resulting from urban and agricultural land use and development in its catchment.
In November the Otago Daily Times reported the Lake Hayes Vision study, commissioned by Friends of Lake Hayes, estimated it would cost $10million over at least five years to restore the lake’s water to a healthy, swimmable state.
ORC, however, estimates it will cost $3.5million over 10 years.
The regional council had proposed to fund lake rehabilitation work as part of its 10-year plan, but its preferred option was for 70% of the funding to come from the "benefit zones" of Lake Hayes, Lake Hayes Estate and Shotover Country.
Under that option, the average rate, which was CV based, would be $334.86 for Lake Hayes residents and $45.35 for "Lake Hayes South".
The remainder of the Queenstown Lakes was an average of $2.16, and just 16c for everyone in Otago.
Mr Paragreen said much of the large-scale development had occurred higher in the catchment and those developers would not pay targeted rates.
Some of those who would be asked to pick up the tab lived 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," he said.
"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," Mr Paragreen said.
Otago Regional councillor Alexa Forbes, of Queenstown, believed the financial model ORC was using to apportion economic benefit of restoration was flawed and set a "dreadful precedent" for other similar projects.
"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."
Submissions on the LTP are being accepted until Sunday, May 16.