Intervention Needed To Save Waituna Lagoon

NEW ZEALAND - The New Zealand Green Party has called for action to save the Waituna Lagoon.
calendar icon 30 June 2011
clock icon 2 minute read

Concerns are rising that the lagoon that has diverse ecosystems for fish and aquatic plants is under threat from pollution.

"The fate of the internationally recognised Waituna Lagoon in Southland lies in Nick Smith's hands," said Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman, in response to the Environment Minister's visit to the lagoon.

An Environment Southland monitoring report stated recently that, "high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in sediments are threatening to flip the lagoon from being an ecosystem with clear water and populated by aquatic plants and a range of fish species to one with murky, turbid water dominated by algae."

"Immediate government intervention is required if we are to save this magnificent internationally protected lagoon and wetland," said Dr Norman.

"There are simply too many cows in the catchment of the lagoon. The dairy farmers haven't broken the rules by putting those cows in the catchment, but if we are to save the lagoon, some of the cows need to come out and some of the land management practices need to change."

The Chairperson of Environment Southland said recently that even if every consent holder was 100% compliant with the conditions of their resource consent, this would not be enough to prevent the flip.

"The regional council has failed in the past to put in place rules to limit the number of cows and now central government needs to step up to the plate to help clean up the mess. It has an international obligation to protect the lagoon and has ample powers to intervene," said Dr Norman.

"Nick Smith needs to make it clear to the regional council and the dairy industry that central government will reduce stock numbers if they don't sort it out themselves within the week.

"The Waituna Lagoon is part of the internationally recognized Awarua Wetlands. New Zealand has signed an international treaty promising to protect this lagoon and wetlands. Other methods to save the lagoon have failed; it is time for drastic action."

Concern for the Waituna lagoon is increasing with suggestions from Southland Conservation Board last week that the lagoon may flip with the next heavy rain. Dr Norman visited the lagoon in April on his Dirty Rivers Rafting Tour and has repeatedly called for government intervention.

"It is the eleventh hour for Waituna Lagoon. Landcare groups in Southland know this, Ngai Tahu know this, the Department of Conservation knows this, Environment Southland knows this, even some of the farmers are calling for immediate action," Dr Norman said.

"Nick Smith's actions following his visit this week will seal the fate of Waituna Lagoon. Let's hope he acts swiftly to save this important ecosystem before it's lost forever."

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