A wetland will be constructed near Lake Horowhenua in a bid to restore the polluted lake, the Government has announced.
Environment minister David Parker said that Horowhenua was one of the most degraded lakes in New Zealand and the wetland project was a chance to turn it around.
“The wetland project itself will improve water quality and the habitat for native fish, birds and plant species, while also providing jobs and recreational opportunities for the community.”
It is expected to create up to 45 full-time equivalent jobs over four years.
The Lake Horowhenua Water Quality Interventions Project received $11.2 million from the Government’s Jobs for Nature programme, towards a total project cost of $12.5 million.
The 142-hectare farmland was purchased for $6.7 million with Horizons Regional Council contributing $1 million and the rest coming from Jobs for Nature funding.
The project is a collaboration between Muaūpoko, Lake Horowhenua Trust (representing the owners of the lake), Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga, Horizons Regional Council, Horowhenua District Council, dairy farmers, horticulturalists, and the wider Lake Horowhenua community.
“The Government is making a major investment in the restoration of the lake through the Jobs for Nature funded project, but growers, the Council and rural and urban land users also need to play their part in improving water quality once and for all,” Parker said.
Horizons Regional Council will own the land and wetland once the project is completed.
Calls for better freshwater rules
Forest & Bird applauded the Government’s announcement while calling for strong rules for wetlands and freshwater protection around the country.
“The Horowhenua branch of Forest & Bird have been working for years to plant native vegetation at Lake Papaitonga,” said Forest & Bird spokesperson Tom Kay.
“We’re excited to see their important work become part of a larger project to restore wetlands and bring back Lake Horowhenua from breaking point.
He added that while the project was a good step, there is a need for better rules to prevent pollution and habitat loss.
“Current freshwater rules are not good enough,” Kay said.
“We need a limit on nitrogen pollution levels in our rivers, lakes, and streams that protects ecosystem health. We also need all industries to play by the rules, including commercial vegetable growers. They are the primary source of pollution in the Horowhenua area, but they’re essentially exempt from freshwater rules at the moment.
“And we need the 80% of wetlands that are on private land to be better protected by government and local councils.”