Clean-up for Lake Ellesmere, New Zealand's most polluted Lake

By Laura Brown - 26 Aug 2011 19:26:0 GMT
Clean-up for Lake Ellesmere, New Zealand's most polluted Lake

New Zealand's government has pledged $11.6 million to clean-up the country's most polluted late.

Lake Ellesmere, in the Canterbury region of the South island and the fifth largest in the country was noted for the levels of pollution, damaging indigenous wildlife and its ecology, in a report last year.

Environment Minister Nick Smith pledged legislative changes encouraging stronger enforcements of laws regulating clean waterways, changes in farming practice and clean-up initiatives. The farming industry, most notably individuals polluting waterways close to their farmland has largely been blamed for rising levels of pollution.

Lake Ellesmere will have shorter opening periods from 22 September with greater protection over the area surrounding it. The minister said, "It has taken 5o years for it to get into this mess and it will take a long term commitment to put it right."

The government faced criticism earlier this year when a report was published blaming a leaderless strategy on waterways. The Cawthorn Institute report, commissioned by Fish and game New Zealand argued a clean-up of waterways was not happening quickly enough, nor with sufficient force. The report blamed a flawed fresh water policy, particularly giving regional councils a period of 30 years to set pollution limits.

The latest investment in Lake Ellesmere has been welcomed by the Green Party in New Zealand but have questioned how effective it will be? A proposal has been made for an expansion in intensive irrigation of dairying in the catchment of the lake. It would lead to an increase in nitrogen pollution in the lake.

Dr Russel Norman is the Co-Leader of the Green Party, "Scientists have shown that land use intensification, such as putting more fertiliser and cows on our land, is the primary reason for water quality decline in New Zealand.

"The plan announced by the Government is a welcome step towards a clean Te Waihora, but to make it happen, we need standards for clean water as well.

"We need standards for clean water that limit the amount of pollution flowing into our rivers and lakes, otherwise we will be forever throwing taxpayer and private money towards clean-up initiatives."

"We note that once again that the taxpayer and ratepayer are paying the lion's share of the clean-up cost, making the case yet again that we need a price on irrigation water to fund these clean-ups,"

The New Zealand government has argued a 'water fee' would bankrupt the country and prove too costly.

Top Image Credit: Stock image of pollution in a lake © zoransimin