At the 2016 LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards
Air New Zealand Excellence Award for Environmental Impact.
Highly Commended: West Coast Regional Council’s ‘The Lake Brunner Water Quality Enhancement Project’.
West Coast Regional Council acted on early warnings of deteriorating water quality in Lake Brunner, engaging the community to address the issue.
Lake Brunner is considered the most vulnerable lake on the West Coast due to development pressure and high recreational use. It is an important attraction for national and international tourists, a popular destination for the local and wider West Coast community and of significant importance to iwi.
Monitoring by the council detected a decline in water quality and, while it was not poor on a national scale, there was potential for eutrophication, where excess nutrients, usually due to run-off from the land, cause dense plant growth.
There are 22 dairy farms located around Lake Brunner and Lake Poera and intensive dairy farming around the lake was identified as a major cause of the decline.
This needed to be addressed for the good of the environment and the community. The council led a successful project to engage landowners to voluntarily change their practices to address the concerns.
A mixture of regulatory and non-regulatory approaches proved very successful. In 2012 the council also successfully applied to the Ministry for the Environment’s Fresh Start to Freshwater Fund for funding to assist farmers to deliver projects that would go beyond what was simply required to protect the lake. A $200,000 fund was provided to help with fencing and riparian planting along the numerous waterways transecting farms on their way to the lake.
Judges praised the success of the scheme, noting the decline in water quality has been halted and the quality target met five years early. “That’s impressive for a small local authority and a small community.”
This article was first published in the August 2016 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.