Residents vote on lagoon conservation projects

Members of the Tomahawk community attended a drop-in session last week to vote for their...
Members of the Tomahawk community attended a drop-in session last week to vote for their preferred projects to improve the lagoon. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON
Tomahawk residents had their say on the future of the lagoon at a drop-in session last week.

After the Otago Regional Council released a draft management plan for the lagoon, community members were invited to vote online or in person for the projects they wanted to see carried out.

There were 19 potential projects, ranging from ecological issues and research to forming groups and hosting community events.

Council project delivery specialist Libby Caldwell said the drop-in session went really well and about 30 people attended.

"There was great interest from the local community in understanding more detail around the proposed projects, with some really great questions and ideas being put forward," Ms Caldwell said.

"We heard some interesting stories from people who grew up in the community that were able to provide insightful stories about changes over time to the lagoon, including historic uses and potential misuses."

At present, the top three projects were to form and support a catchment group, undertake an ecological assessment, and install a permanent water quality monitoring site.

Many people offered to be part of the catchment group if the project went ahead.

The least popular projects so far were riparian planting research, investigating the impacts of pest fish in the lagoon, study of flora and fauna, and community planting events.

The online survey closed on Friday. Feedback would be collated and the projects would be ordered from most favourable to least.

Key stakeholders would meet in late-June, once the council had determined a budget for the lagoon through the Long-Term Plan.

Then final decisions would be made on what projects would be delivered and when.

"This will also be communicated with the community, and we thank them for their thoughts and for giving up their time to attend the drop-in session."

Ecotago Charitable Trust project facilitator Andrew Innes was part of a group that contributed to the council’s draft plan, under the guidance of Ms Caldwell.

He was pleased to see improving the lagoon was going to be a focus in the Long-Term Plan, and the work started a few years ago was being continued.

He believed the most significant decision would be to form a catchment group, but an ecological assessment of the lagoon needed to be done first.

"What we’ve [Ecotago] been doing, of course, is building up part of that picture anyway," Mr Innes said.

"We’re definitely not starting off with a blank canvas."

Ecotago facilitates a citizen science group which has carried out water quality projects at the lagoon since 2016.

With funding from the Otago Participatory Science Programme, it will do a biodiversity evaluation of the lagoon, including data about fish, birds and invertebrates.

While algal blooms were often found in the lagoon, there were groups in the community that had been constantly working to improve it, Mr Innes said.

"We’re not just sitting on our hands."

jessica.wilson@thestar.co.nz

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