A scoping study by the Otago Regional Council will soon spotlight 75 of Otago’s more than 7000 lakes - the first step toward potentially developing a lakes management plan.
The ORC wants to determine whether there is a need for a new Otago Lakes Strategic Plan, or whether other initiatives are needed to enhance the way lakes are managed.
ORC has announced Cromwell-based Landpro was the successful company, from three recent tenders. While the overall project budget is $200,000, the initial Stage 1 lakes’ scoping study is less than 50% of the total.
ORC’s Senior Strategic Analyst and Project Manager James Adams says the information will inform Council about the next steps toward employing the most effective management and strategy options.
“This piece of work is an important stock take on lake management. It’ll let us know how well lakes management is working, and how we build on what we’re doing already,” he says.
Mr Adams says this important process in evaluating lakes’ management will include [contractor] Landpro engaging with ORC’s iwi partners Kāi Tahu, local communities and other stakeholders in assessing and protecting these “extremely valuable water bodies”.
Otago has more than 7200 Otago lakes, with 61 lakes of more than 10 hectares in size, 418 bigger than 1 hectare and the remainder being small farm dams or water bodies.
The scoping study will undertake a complete stock take of 75 named-lakes and their management; delivering a final report by the end of September.
2021 request for scoping study
In May 2021 ORC Councillors requested a scoping study for an Otago Lakes Strategic Plan be carried out, to “create lake management plans aimed at improving the environmental and amenity values of the water bodies”.
An Otago lakes plan would need to complement other ORC projects, including its new Land and Water Regional Plan and development of integrated catchment plans; as per Long Term Plan 2021-2031. It would also need to complement the Regional Pest Management Plan and navigation safety programmes.
Stage 1 will focus on confirming whether there is a case for development of an Otago lakes plan. Dependent on the Stage 1 outcome, Stage 2 would then clarify the purpose, scope and function of a lakes plan.
An ORC executive summary of its Lakes Management Framework notes that it is the region’s leading organisation on freshwater management, biosecurity and navigation.
ORC controls the disturbance of lake beds, water takes and discharges and sets expectations on invasive species controls in lakes and rivers.
“Whatever their size, lakes are particularly vulnerable to degradation,” an ORC discussion document noted.
Sediment and nutrients from upper catchments settle in lakes, and have the ability to destabilise ecosystems, and create algal bloom risks in the long-term.
“Once degraded, lakes are difficult to restore.”
Critical to Otago’s future - Landpro
Landpro CEO Jason Harvey-Wills says being involved in a project so critical to Otago’s future is “super important”, being a local environmental consultancy with a presence in Cromwell, Wanaka, Dunedin and Taranaki.
“We’re always excited to be involved at a community level, speaking to different stakeholders about their concerns and liaising with the Council to seek strong practical outcomes,” he says.
Stocktake of 75 alpine, highland, lowland and coastal lakes
Landpro will review the current framework for lake management, including alpine, highland, lowland and coastal lakes, and their margins.
Mr Harvey-Wills says Landpro will categorize the lakes into management subsets before investigating and recording the management frameworks currently in place, confirming the value that communities place on lakes across Otago, and identifying any gaps in the current knowledge.
Landpro Planning Manager & Project Leader Claire Perkins says Landpro have previously completed the Upper Clutha Community Catchment Plan for Wai Wānaka, which provides “some great existing data” in order to push the new project forward quickly.