After watching Lake Tutira deteriorate for 50 years, landowners of a part of it say they have enjoyed working to restore water quality.
On January 1 this year, a 50-year, rent-free lease expired. The land and lakebed at the northern end of the lake were returned to the Lake Tutira B7 and B19 Ahu Whenua Trust.
It has been a busy year since for the trust, chairman Henare Ratima said.
Mr Ratima inherited sections B7 and B19 when he was 9, and the land was leased when he was 16.
Now in his 60s, Mr Ratima said he had grown up knowing the area was his family's and had been "jubilant" they could now do something about the lake environment.
As the trust counted down the days until the land was returned in late 2015, they created a vision to restore the area, and return the lake to a "pristine water quality".
Over the years the algae in Lake Tutira had prompted warnings against swimming in the popular lake on multiple occasions and twice this year a major die-off was detected.
The most recent saw about 20 dead or dying eels wash up on the shoreline, with reports of dead trout within the lake.
To restore the quality of the land, and lakebed, the trust had planned to place a rahui over the northern end of the lake, remove grass carp, eliminate the lakebed of hydrilla weed and restore the wetlands with native flora and fauna.
This year, Mr Ratima said they had "surveyed literally all the blocks [of land] up here".
Some plans, such as removing willow trees around the lake, were on hold as they received more information.
Although restoring the lake was "still top of the priority list", he said this year the trust had also just been making the most of having the land back.
"We've enjoyed it immensely, the freedom of just going there whenever we felt like it, that's the most joy we have.
"We go up there for picnics and there's nobody else around, we've been enjoying that part of it."
When the land was first returned to the trust, Mr Ratima said public access would be restricted for safety reasons, but maintained after work was completed the public would be able to use the land as they always had.
Currently the area was open to families with a link to the land, or the trust to "do whatever they like, as long as they take all their rubbish home".
The trust would continue to work to restore their parcel of land at the lake's northern end. They also had some "stuff in the pipeline".
Although younger family members involved with the trust were beginning to leave Hawke's Bay, Mr Ratima said they were still "very keen" to do their part to restore the lake.
Other parties involved with the lake are working collaboratively to restore its quality, from the Department of Conservation who own a campground at the southern end, to the Hawke's Bay Regional Council who conduct water monitoring.