The $11.6 million cleanup of Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere will be a collaborative effort by central government, Ngāi Tahu, Environment Canterbury, Fonterra, Selwyn District Council, Lincoln University and the local community.
In announcing the initiative, Environment Minister Nick Smith said:
“Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere is New Zealand’s most polluted lake and a co-ordinated cleanup is overdue. This plan involves changes to the Water Conservation Order, millions of dollars to fund clean up work, changes to farm practices in the lake’s catchments, riparian planting and relationship agreements to keep the work programme on track,” Dr Smith said . . .
“$11.6 million is being committed to clean up the lake made up of contributions of $6.1 million from the Government, $3.5 million from Environment Canterbury, $1.3 million from Fonterra, $500,000 from Ngāi Tahu and the balance from the Selwyn District Council, Waihora Ellesmere Trust and Lincoln University. There will also be a substantial commitment to the clean up from local volunteers.
“This is the most significant fresh water clean up project New Zealand has undertaken because of the severity of the pollution and the size of the lake. It has taken 50 years for it to get into this mess and it will take a long-term commitment to put it right. The significance of today is that Ngāi Tahu, farmers, community representatives, local, regional and central government, as well as New Zealand’s largest company, are committed to working together to drive the changes needed to reduce pollutants entering the lake and put it on the road to recovery. . .
Writing about the project in the Sunday Star Times, (not online) Federated farmers president Bruce Wills said the rehabilitation provides a template farmers can back.
Instead of finger pointing, government, iwi, industry, councils and farmers are working together . . .
Te Waihora needs only a little of the immense wealth farming ahs generated for the country over these decades to be put back into it. But Te Waihora also needs action of the 15,000 pest Canada geese estimated to be there – each Canada goose is like having a sheep living ont he water.
It’s why are farmers are saying that lake Ellesmere represents where dairy farming was. Te Wiahora is about where dairy farming is going. It will mean undoing decades of damage from a less enlightened time, there’s no such thing as ‘the good old days’ with farm environmental practice.
A Canterbury spirit can be seen with Fonterra Cooperative Group joining farmers in working for the lake. Te Waihora indicates a dairy industry that’s facing up to the past but is working with the community for a common future.”
While not all farmers and farming practices in the past were unsustainable, it is true that too many were.
We can’t change that but we can ensure we do better in the future.
If the Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere clean-up is successful it could provide a model for other areas to follow.