How to Save Lake Taupo

A group of key stakeholders with conflicting interests have found a way to work together to
save Lake Taupo from the damage caused by nitrogen pollution.

For decades the future of the lake was threatened by gradual changes in land use with the
introduction of pasture farming in areas which were once just tussock. The nitrogen from
animal farming, and housing development, was leaching slowly into the ground water, and
eventually washing into the lake and damaging the eco- system.

‘Lake Taupo is one of New Zealand’s national treasures. Despite that, the health of the
lake was threatened by urban and rural land development that increased the amount of
nitrogen reaching the lake and reduced the quality of the lake water by increasing algae
and nuisance plants.

A partnership comprising Central Government, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Taupo District Council
and Environment Waikato prepared a management regime to protect the quality of Lake
Taupo. The management regime contained regulatory and non-regulatory methods to
protect the lake, including the establishment of a public fund of $81.5 million to reduce
nitrogen levels in the lake by 20 per cent by 2020.

A public fund is being collected over a period of 15 years with the cost being shared by all
New Zealanders via central government (45 per cent), ratepayers of the Waikato region
(33 per cent) and Taupo District Council (22 per cent).

The Lake Taupo Protection Trust is a charitable trust formed to administer the public fund and has the responsibility for effectively and efficiently reducing nitrogen levels
by 20 per cent. The Trust reports to a joint committee comprising equal membership from
Central Government, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Taupo District Council, and Environment Waikato.
(Lake Taupo Protection Trust Strategic Plan 2008-11, p.3)

This describes what was achieved, but what is perhaps even more interesting is how it was
achieved via the development, over time, of a shared commitment among stakeholders
with contrasting interests, perspectives, and responsibilities.