ORC at odds over lake weed

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Otago regional councillor Michael Laws is angry about the state of Lake Dunstan, saying the lack of control of the aquatic weed lagarosiphon is the worst neglect he has seen in his public career.

“The only reason the lake has weed is because the Otago Regional Council (ORC) has not done its job.”

The council has a statutory duty to control weeds.

“They know about it. Have been told about it and are not spending $1 on it,” he said.

Mr Laws described lagarosiphon as a slimy green weed that grows from the bottom of the lake, clogging up waterways for recreational lake users.

“My kids are the ones who led me to the issue. It’s one of the reasons I stood for the ORC,” he said.

The ORC had $56million in cash reserves, no debt, and a Port of Otago asset worth more than $400million, yet would not spend money on the lake, he said.

A petition demanding the ORC take action to manage lagarosiphon in Lake Dunstan has been launched by the Guardians of Lake Dunstan.

The petition asks the ORC to “take prime responsibility for controlling and then eradicating the invasive pest weed lagarosiphon from Lake Dunstan and associated waterways, including the direct funding and resourcing of pilot programmes aimed at combating this pest”.

ORC environmental monitoring and operations director Scott MacLean took issue with Mr Law’s comments, saying the ORC did not accept that it was failing in its duty to control lagarosiphon in Lake Dunstan.

Land Information New Zealand was the owner of the lake beds in the Southern Lakes and was the lead agency responsible for the associated weed and pest-control programmes, he said.

“It is appropriate, given their status, that they are the lead agency in the administration of these programmes.

“ORC is a member of the respective management groups for the Southern Lakes and is pleased to support Linz and the other agencies and community groups involved in the management of lagarosiphon in Otago.

“As part of our contribution to the lagarosiphon control programme, we spend about $50,000 a year in the management of lagarosiphon. Much of this is spent in Lake Wanaka and funds monitoring and surveillance activities.

“For this financial year and next we have allocated an additional $30,000 specifically for Lake Wakatipu and the upper Kawarau River.”

The ORC’s goals for Lake Dunstan were to protect other water bodies from lagarosiphon transfer, minimise weed impacts on lake users within high-value areas, involve the community in decision-making and improve the cost-effectiveness and efficacy of control works, he said.