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Research to safeguard Lake Taupo's future

A new research initiative has received significant funding to help safeguard the future of one of New Zealand's most popular and cherished water resources, Lake Taupo.

The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology has invested $12.8m over six years in a programme that will address the declining water quality of our largest lake due to nitrogen run-off.

The research, led by AgResearch Ltd, will develop new technologies, improved land use practices and policies that will lead to the protection of Lake Taupo and the economic and community benefits that are linked to the lake's environmental value.

Programme Leader, Stewart Ledgard from AgResearch Ltd, says the research is critical to the future of Lake Taupo but is also significant for water resources and tourism nationwide.

"New Zealand relies heavily on its pristine rural image for marketing of produce and for tourism. Lake Taupo is critical to this because of its icon status as our largest lake. It also has important cultural value for Ngati Tuwharetoa, who own around 85% of land in the catchment.

"A decline in lake water quality from increased nitrogen has been estimated to give a net economic loss from reduced tourism of up to $97 million a year, according to an Environment Waikato survey. This refers only to land in the Lake Taupo catchment and would clearly be higher if applied to other sensitive water bodies," says Stewart.

The Foundation's Group Manager of Portfolio Management, John Smart, says the research sets an excellent precedent for New Zealand in terms of planned policy intervention via restrictions on land use.

"The research techniques and tools derived from this research will be able to be applied to problems in other regions of New Zealand, such as the Rotorua lakes and Canterbury's groundwater quality," he says.

The Lake Taupo research will be carried out by an experienced multidisciplinary team covering the broad disciplines of biophysical, land use systems, modelling, economics and social research. Research links include Forest Research, NIWA and Lincoln Environmental, as well as collaborators from Australia, Germany, Italy and USA who will contribute to methodology and technology development.

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