Plea for special lake designation

Lake Whakatipu. PHOTO: ARCHIVE
Lake Whakatipu. PHOTO: ARCHIVE
The latest evidence from an eminent freshwater scientist suggests Lake Whakatipu may not be in the pristine condition it appears to be.

Emeritus professor Dame Carolyn Burns, a former head of the University of Otago’s zoology department, last week spoke at a Whakatipu U3A meeting about the lake’s values and its current health.

An international authority on the ecology of lakes, she told the meeting she feels Lake Whakatipu should be designated a ‘lake of national importance’.

This, she suggested, would help recognise the significance of the lake to Queenstown and the importance it has on the local economy, biodiversity, recreation and the ecosystem.

Methods of measuring the lake’s health had increased vastly since she began studying the lake — Dame Carolyn was one of the first people to investigate Lake Whakatipu.

Ways to measure the healthiness of the lake include physically, biologically and by looking at its food chain and organisms living in it, including invasive species.

Dame Carolyn tells Mountain Scene with more ways to measure the healthiness of the lake, there’s definitely evidence of change.

"We should be concerned about what is happening in the lake."

She says change occurs for three main reasons — climate change, predators and runoff from land development.

With the lake’s condition worsening, she’s urging the community promote and support actions to monitor and improve its water quality.

Dame Carolyn, who’s 82, was first involved in the Queenstown Lakes, and Lake Hayes, in particular, in 1969.