Banning power boats from the water and vehicles from the margins are two immediate steps that have been taken in a bid to save the best known of the very Far North's dune lakes.

Ngai Takoto spokesman Rangitane Marsden said concerns for the state of Lake Ngatu had drawn together the key parties responsible to develop an environmental strategy to explore longer-term solutions for restoring the lake's welfare and to initiate practical, immediate measures while that strategy was developed and implemented.

The first step would be to ban power boats and install bollards at current public access points, and in areas where people had created their own access to keep vehicles away from the margins.

Mr Marsden said elimination of motorised craft would reduce prop wash, which would stir up the nutrients locked into the thick layer of sediment on the bottom of a very shallow lake, with disastrous results. With the expected strong El Nino summer further reducing the currently low water levels, those nutrients would feed algae, potentially causing a bloom.


That had been identified as just one of many problems that had contributed to the reduced water quality, however, and remedial work would begin immediately. This included erection of signs and a community education programme to ensure understanding and support for the project and following stages, which would include looking at drain flows into the lake and initiating a response programme within the lake itself.

It was intended to keep the public informed of the strategy, and how people might contribute to it.

Te Runanga o Ngai Takoto had convened a meeting with representatives from the Department of Conservation, the Far North District and Northland Regional councils, seeking support for the immediate measures while the longer-term strategy was rolled out in two more planned stages.

Mr Marsden said concerns had been expressed about the declining condition of the lake's water quality, and its aquatic and plant life for some considerable time, both within the iwi and the wider community.

The vesting of the lake bed in Ngai Takoto as part of the cultural redress within the iwi's Treaty settlement process now gave it the ability to lead and participate with others in determining the future welfare of the lake, as opposed to the lesser role it had played in the past, effectively "watching from the sidelines."

He took heart from the various parties' acknowledgement that something needed to be done, and their agreeing to work together to make the changes required in a planned and staged way.

"While there may be some disappointment from power boat users about the proposed ban, non-motorised water craft (sail boats, waka ama) will still be permitted," he said.