Taupō District Council and Waikato Regional Council have approved funding to continue the Lake Taupō Protection Trust to further protect the water quality of Lake Taupō.
The approval follows a month of engagement with the community on the future of the Trust as part of both councils’ long-term plan consultation processes.
The Trust administers an $81.5 million fund to encourage and assist land-use change, purchase land and nitrogen in the Lake Taupō catchment, and to fund other initiatives that assist landowners to reduce the nitrogen impact.
It has been jointly funded by the Ministry for the Environment, Taupō District Council, and Waikato Regional Council and overseen by Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board, both councils, and the Crown.
Taupō District mayor David Trewavas said continuing to support the Trust was an important part of protecting Lake Taupō.
“Our lake is taonga and such an important part of who we are as a district. We must protect it and I am pleased to be part of a decision that has agreed to support further initiatives that will encourage better environmental practices and protect our water quality,” he said.
Since its inception in February 2007, the Trust has successfully achieved a 20% reduction in the levels of nitrogen entering the lake by entering into 27 landowner agreements, each with a 999-year life.
With a review of funding and administration arrangements required this year, and funding from the Crown now ceased, both councils asked for community input, alongside discussions with Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board.
All up, 223 submissions were received, with 78% in favour of retaining the current management and governance arrangements because submitters felt they were working well and would ensure the continued protection of the lake and involvement of local expertise.
In May 2021, both councils voted to fund the Trust and associated initiatives for a further two years at a cost of $339,598 in year one. Waikato Regional Council will contribute $144,000, 50% of the lowest cost option, with Taupō District Council funding the difference. The Trust will operate from a workspace provided in either the district or regional council offices.
Waikato Regional Council Chair Russ Rimmington described Lake Taupō as the jewel in the crown of Aotearoa New Zealand.
“For this reason, it’s absolutely imperative that the hard work of landowners continues to be enabled and supported. Regional councillors look forward to the review, which will occur over the next couple of years to look closely at whether these arrangements are the most efficient and cost-effective way of managing the landowner agreements.”
The governance arrangements will remain unchanged, with an overarching joint committee made up of two representatives each from the Crown, Taupō District Council, Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board and Waikato Regional Council.
This decision will be formally ratified by both councils next month, with a review of these arrangements to be completed by June 2023.