Millions for Lake Rotorua clean-up

Millions of dollars of Government funding has been reallocated in what is being described as the "last piece of the puzzle" to clean up Lake Rotorua once and for all.

Environment Minister Amy Adams announced yesterday $24 million will remain in the region and be used to address land use management and counter the effects of urban waste water and the ongoing effects of historical farming practices.

The announcement was celebrated by representatives of regional and district councils, farmers and iwi at Aorangi Peak Restaurant yesterday, led by MP Todd McClay.

The money remains from an original funding agreement of $72 million in 2008 as part of the Rotorua Te Arawa lakes water quality improvements programme, a partnership between the district and regional councils and Te Arawa Lakes Trust.

The Crown provided half of the $144 million needed to help restore four priority lakes - Rotorua, Rotoiti, Okareka and Rotoehu. The rest of the funding was jointly made by the Rotorua District Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

"This is the last piece of the puzzle needed to get on cleaning up Lake Rotorua once and for all," Mr McClay said.

"It was not always certain this money would remain in Rotorua. The original funding deed agreed by Government for $72 million stated that should the funding not be used for the original purpose it should be returned to Treasury.

"However, scientists believed the existing plan to divert nutrient-rich streams flowing into the lake and cap sediments to stop nutrients flowing up from the lake bed wasn't a long-term solution.

"After ongoing and in-depth discussions between Cabinet and the lakes stakeholder advisory group it was agreed that the money may now be used instead to support the land use management and change efforts being driven by the Rotorua community."

Mr McClay said it was a collaborative effort from local stakeholders which led the minister to agree to re-allocating the money. He said tourism was the biggest employer in the region and worth half a billion dollars to the local economy so improving the quality of the lakes was vital.

Agriculture was also worth half a billion dollars, so support for farmers was also needed.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said it was a relief to hear the money would remain in the region.

"It is wonderful news, I was particularly worried about this, if Cabinet had not agreed it could have been lost ... the lakes programme is hugely important both for our local community and nationally, and we want to do whatever we can to help our landowners make the changes necessary to achieve our goals for Lake Rotorua."

Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Strategy Group chairman Sir Toby Curtis said while the lake's water quality was improving, the challenge was sustaining that improvement in the long term.

About the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme

In 2008 the Government agreed to contribute $72 million to implement the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme, half the total cost of $144 million. The rest is being funded jointly by the Rotorua District Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

The programme aims to restore four priority lakes - Rotorua, Rotoiti, Okareka and Rotoehu and includes multiple measures to address sources of nutrients entering the lakes.

Combined interventions including sewerage reticulation, sewerage plant upgrades, floating wetlands and a treatment plant for geothermal nitrogen will reduce the nitrogen load in Lake Rotorua by an estimated 50 tonnes a year. This leaves an annual balance of 270 tonnes to be reduced from the pastoral sector to achieve the 320 tonne reduction target.

It is proposed the 270 tonnes will be achieved through land-use management (setting nitrogen discharge allowances), land-use change and re-vegetation of areas of gorse (which leaches nitrogen).

- Rotorua Daily Post

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