Horowhenua dangers: Who should alert public?

EMMA GOODWIN
Last updated 13:25 11/02/2012

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There may not be warning signs up at the moment but that doesn't mean it's safe to swim in Lake Horowhenua.

Officers at Horizons Regional Council say that most people know not to swim in the polluted lake, which earlier this week was described as having the power to kill if an algal bloom containing cyanobacteria was present.

Self-appointed lake guardian Philip Taueki said there are no signs warning the public and that could be dangerous. "Horizons, the Lake Domain Board, the lake trustees – at least some of them – and the Horowhenua District Council know about the danger and apparently are not in too much hurry to do anything about it."

Horizons policy adviser Barry Gilliland said there had been no regular water testing done at the lake for a couple of years, since staff were "threatened" by some locals. "I get the occasional sample from a well-meaning kayaker but that's it. The last sample I had was in October."

Horizons' website gives Lake Horowhenua an amber status, meaning it is only suitable for non-contact recreation and people should neither swim in it or drink its water. It also advises people to avoid algae scums.

Mr Gilliland said that although he had no evidence of any algal blooms that could contain cyanobacteria, it doesn't mean there hadn't been any. "I've been at Horizons since 1975 and there's been a bloom every year in that time, so I don't see why this year would be any different. But because we are not able to get close to the lake I can't tell you when."

Mr Gilliland said he believed it was the responsibility of Horowhenua Lake Domain Board to put up signage instructing people to stay away from the water.

Horizons' says while it is responsible for sampling and toxin testing, lake restrictions are made by Lake Horowhenua Domain Board.

But Horowhenua Lake Domain Board chairman Jason Roxburgh told the Manawatu Standard it was Horizons' role to advise the community of any risk.

Horizons' acting group manager of environmental management Bill Martyn said Horizons only put signage up when advised to by the Health Ministry. "I'm not aware there are any signs there at the moment and there probably isn't any."

Mr Taueki said the lake was a treasured taonga to Mua-Upoko.

"Our ancestors, who fought and died to keep the lake for my people, lay buried here."

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- Manawatu Standard

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