ORC's lake snow efforts queried

Guest speakers (from left) freshwater scientist Dr Marc Schallenberg and Landcare researcher Dr Phil Novis and ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead (at podium) listen to Queenstown Lakes District Council project manager Rob Darby at the lake snow information eve
Guest speakers (from left) freshwater scientist Dr Marc Schallenberg and Landcare researcher Dr Phil Novis and ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead (at podium) listen to Queenstown Lakes District Council project manager Rob Darby at the lake snow information evening at the Lake Wanaka Centre. Photo: Kerrie Waterworth
The Otago Regional Council has been criticised for not having a ''big picture'' strategy to deal with the slime known as lake snow and for not spending enough on monitoring the health of Lake Wanaka.

Guardians of Lake Wanaka chairman Don Robertson made the claim during question time at a recent ORC-sponsored ''Love your Lake'' information session at the Lake Wanaka Centre.

The meeting heard presentations by University of Otago freshwater scientist and lake snow expert Marc Schallenberg, Landcare researcher Phil Novis and ORC water quality scientist Adam Uytendaal about past and future research projects into the organism Lindavia intermedia and the algal slime it produces.

Dr Novis recently completed the ORC-funded research into the origins of lake snow which found the genetic composition of the organism closely matched Lindavia intermedia from Lake Young in the northwest United States.

Dr Schallenberg said the incidence of lake snow had been decreasing in Lake Young in recent years, which could suggest the phenomenon may right itself.

''With some of these invasive species either the eco-system adapts or finds a way to erase the algae or some other pathogen comes in to regulate the invasive species, so just understanding how the dynamics work in other lakes might tell us how it is working here.''

Dr Uytendaal said the ORC had plans to get ''a very detailed scientific review done'' of all the scientific literature on lake snow formation, to try to learn from that and to put all the information into a central report.

He said the ORC would also provide funding for citizen science support work ''to help us better understand what is actually happening out on the lake [Wanaka].''

He said the very detailed lake monitoring programme that has been going on for the past 12 months would continue for the next two years but he could not comment on whether it would be extended after that.

When asked why the ORC had not bought a scientific monitoring buoy for Lake Wanaka, Dr Uytendaal said ''they give us some answers, but not all the answers, so it was about having a programme that was fit for purpose.''

''That might include monitoring buoys but there are certainly a lot of aspects around lake health that those scientific buoys don't actually contribute,'' he said.

ORC chief executive Peter Bodeker said ORC lake research was funded out of general rates, ''so all ratepayers fund it''.

He said both he and ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead last week attended a meeting with farmers who were just as passionate about wanting money for rabbit control and there were just as many who were passionate about wanting money to do something about wilding pines.

''We just have to get the balance right,'' Mr Bodeker said.

Guardians chairman Mr Robertson said the new water advocacy group The Lake Wanaka Trust, of which the Guardians of Lake Wanaka were members, were in the process of securing a scientific buoy for Lake Wanaka.

He said it had been a very long and slow process to get the ORC to ''engage'' in the health of Lake Wanaka and although taking part in the public meeting and taking part in research was a tiny fraction of what needed to be done, it was ''progress''.

kerrie.waterworth@odt.co.nz

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