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Protecting Lake Taupo

On this page: Protecting Lake Taupo strategy, variation to the Waikato Regional Plan: Lake Taupo Catchment, supporting the 2020 Taupo-nui-a-Tia action plan, Environment Court decision, protecting Lake Taupo: lessons learned, find out more

Photograph of Taupo and Lake Taupo

Scientists agree that Lake Taupo is under threat from increasing nitrogen leaching from land uses in the catchment. To just maintain the lake's current water quality, we need to reduce the amount of nitrogen coming from farmland and urban areas by 20 per cent.

As the local government agency responsible for the lake's water quality, Waikato Regional Council has been working together with Taupo District Council, central government, Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board, other agencies and groups to find the best solutions for both the lake and the community.

This page has information about the Protecting Lake Taupo strategy, the variation to the Waikato Regional Plan and the formation of the Lake Taupo Protection Trust.  Check out our community section for farmers to find out information about what the new rules mean for farming activities in the area .

Protecting Lake Taupo strategy

You can download and read the Protecting Lake Taupo strategy below.

Protecting Lake Taupo strategy
(967 kb, 138 seconds to download, 56k modem)

Variation to the Waikato Regional Plan: Lake Taupo Catchment

Waikato Regional Council's  "Variation No. 5 - Lake Taupo Catchment" to the Waikato Regional Plan was proposed in 2005, and became operative on Thursday, 7 July 2011.

The variation has now been incorporated into the plan, and can be viewed online - refer chapter 3.10 of the Waikato Regional Plan.

Waikato Regional Council received 137 submissions to the proposal. Submissions were heard over a period of three months. The Hearing Committee considered all the submissions and made its recommendations to council in March 2007. Council adopted those decisions in full, and released the decisions in March 2007.

The variation contains new policy and rules to manage land use in the catchment, with some farming practices controlled or requiring consents. It also contains tighter controls for new urban development in the Lake Taupo catchment.

New rules in the variation include:

  • limits on the annual average amount of nitrogen leached from rural land use activities – dairy and drystock farming will require resource consents
  • limits on the amount of nitrogen leached from new wastewater discharges (on-site or community systems)
  • requiring a high standard of nitrogen removal from wastewater systems near to the lakeshore
  • allowing nitrogen offsetting between properties to provide flexibility for landowners to meet the new rule requirements.

Policies in the variation include:

  • working with Taupo District Council and other stakeholders to promote community wastewater upgrades
  • working in partnership with Tuwharetoa as kaitiaki of the lake
  • supporting the 2020 Taupo-nui-a-Tia action plan to recognise and provide for other environmental, social, cultural and economic values when managing land use change
  • supporting research and development into profitable and viable low nitrogen rural land uses
  • using public funds administered by the Lake Taupo Protection Trust to reduce manageable nitrogen losses to the lake by 20 per cent.

For more information, you can download our background  section 32 RMA report. This report outlines the different approaches considered, along with their respective costs and benefits, and presents the Council’s preferred approaches.

Environment Court decision

An Environment Court hearing to consider evidence and legal submissions on appeals to Variation No. 5 was conducted over a number of weeks in May and June 2008.  The Environment Court released an interim decision of its findings on 12 November 2008.

The interim decision directed parties to make specific changes to the variation through planning caucusing and consultation with the parties.  A joint memorandum and final set of provisions was filed with the Environment Court in December 2010.

The Court confirmed the final provisions of the variation on 17 June 2011. The provisions of the variation are now beyond challenge.

You can download the Environment Court decisions below:

Environment Court Interim Decision

Final Environment Court Decision

What happens next?

Council resolved to make the variation operative at its meeting on 29 June 2011. The variation became operative on 7 July 2011.  

Farmers in the Lake Taupo have six months from the operative date of RPV5 to apply for resource consents.  For more information about the implementation of the variation, please contact us.

Protecting Lake Taupo: Lessons learned

A Waikato Regional Council technical report looks at the biophysical, institutional and landowner context in the Lake Taupo catchment from 1999 to 2008.

The report retrospectively applies the Policy Choice Framework, which is a systematic method for selecting policy instruments to achieve natural resource outcomes. The Lake Taupo catchment was chosen as a case study because the council wanted to understand the far reaching implications of a novel and unprecedented policy intervention to cap and trade diffuse sources of nitrogen. Find out more in the technical report Application of the Policy Choice Framework to Lake Taupo Catchment.

Another report reviewing the process of agreeing the Lake Taupo Protection Trust and developing new rules in the catchment was done by one of the farmers involved: 

Protecting Lake Taupo: the strategy and the lessons
(8036 kb, 1148 seconds to download, 56k modem) 

The report draws directly from interviews with key informants such as agency staff, landowners and Government Ministers, recording their recollection of the process. The farmers chosen for interviews were individuals who had regularly engaged in detailed consultation discussions with council staff. Chairman of farmer group Taupo Lake Care Bob Cottrell stated “Apart from the initial emotion and people saying no we’re not affecting the lake, we quickly moved to how can we protect the Lake without that affecting long term viability and having flexibility of land use” (Yerex 2009 p 16).

Find out more

Find out about issues affecting Lake Taupo’s water quality, including the effect of different land uses on the lake and how clean the lake is for swimming.

Find out how the new rules affect farming in the Lake Taupo catchment.

Find out more about the Lake Taupo Protection Trust.

Contact us if you’d like updates on our progress and information about opportunities to have your say.