Pressure on councils to support Lake Wanaka water quality project
Te Kakano Aotearoa Trust of Wanaka has won a small victory in the battle for freshwater research funding but needs to twist more arms for resources.
Environment Minister Nick Smith's August 8 announcement of a $350,000 Freshwater Investment Fund grant to create a Lake Wanaka community catchment plan is a significant deal for the not-for-profit community organisation, but it is still being negotiated.*
Before the project can start, Te Kakano (Maori for "the seed") has had to raise the stakes to $700,000, which community liaison and development officer Megan Williams confirmed has been provided from community sources.*
However, she is prevented from discussing full details until a Ministry for the Environment embargo has been lifted.
* The new 'swimmable' fresh water target: Nick Smith defends his plan
* The thorny politics of 'swimmable', a word losing its meaning
* Te Kakano Trust wins $350,000 for Lake Wanaka community management plan
Te Kakano's slice of the Ministry for the Environment's multi-million fund is conditional on being matched dollar for dollar from community contributions and support from the Otago Regional Council and Queenstown Lakes District Council.
The trust is a community-based native plant nursery specialising in propagating plants of Upper Clutha origin for local habitat restoration.
Its purpose is "to support communities in fostering healthy lands and waterways to create a stronger link between the environment and humanity".
One of its current projects is to clear vegetation and replant the Otago Fish and Game Council's former hatchery site at Wanaka's Bullock Creek at Stone Street, under a memorandum of understanding with Fish and Game.*
Williams said Te Kakano had been asked to reframe its application and resubmit it to the Ministry, which would happen this week.*
Details would be revealed once Ministry for the Environment negotiations were completed in early September, she said.
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, of Oamaru, said the Lake Wanaka investment would be "a shot in the arm for the Upper Clutha community".
"Concerns about lake snow, in both Lakes Wanaka and Hawea, have been on-going, along with potential links to nutrient run-off and land use change.
"The project, which is a partnership with the Otago Regional and the Queenstown Lakes District Councils, will allow those issues to be explored in more detail," Dean said.
Wanaka councillors are keen to get the project over the line.
The Otago Regional Council's Dunstan constituency councillor Ella Lawton, of Wanaka, said the ministry funding was "a good start".
"The beautiful thing about it is that Te Kakano really is trying to get everyone on board," she said.
Because negotiations were continuing, Lawton did not want to discuss what regional council budget might be available, but confirmed regional council staff supported the project.
"Te Kakano has been communicating with the Upper Clutha Water Group and the Otago Regional Council through this entire bid. For this sort of project to succeed the Otago Regional Council must be on board. Negotiations are ongoing about what exactly the Otago Regional Council can do," Lawton said.
Queenstown Lakes District Council deputy mayor Calum MacLeod, of Wanaka, said the council would be "100 per cent in support".
"If the QLDC can't come up with the funding there is something wrong with the world," MacLeod said.
"I don't know of a budget but I do know we will find it. We definitely will. I am not [council chief financial officer] Stewart Burns but he is a financial wizard. I would anticipate between ourselves and the Otago Regional Council that we would be able to find $150,000 each. That is eminently achievable," MacLeod said.
Upper Clutha Water Group convenor Mandy Bell confirmed she had worked with Williams on the Te Kakano bid but could not comment until ministry negotiations were complete.
"It is hugely exciting . . . It is just a start," she said.
The Upper Clutha Water Group formed in July 2016 to discuss water issues, had many stakeholders and was now "on a roll", she said.
While it had been disappointing to learn in July that Otago University's Catchments Otago group of researchers had lost a bid for $8 million worth of Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment funding for a southern lakes study, that rejection was "not the end point" and other ways would be found to fund freshwater science, Bell said.
"We have a diverse group of stakeholders so we need compromise and time. This has taken a whole year. We need to be united and strong, with one voice," Bell said.
Lawton said Te Kakano's catchment planning project was a "really important" opportunity to ensure lake water quality remained pristine.
The lake was well above "swimmable standard" and people wanted it to stay that way, she said.
"We are in a unique position in New Zealand because a lot of the other projects [that received a Freshwater Investment Fund grant] in New Zealand are about cleaning up waterways," Lawton said.
Te Kakano was the only Otago project to get funding from the first tranche of Freshwater Investment Fund grants, totalling $44 million.
It received one of the smallest slices of the pie. The Tasman District Council got $7 million for a Waimea River dam project, while Southland's Waituna Lagoon received $5 million to build a protective buffer.
The lion's share of the grants, just over $27 million, went to North Island projects.
* This story has been amended to clarify the funding situation and Te Kakano's work at the hatchery site.