Taupō iwi Tūwharetoa is banning public boating events due to fears about the spread of invasive gold clams.
At least two major powerboating events - the Hydro Thunder scheduled for January 27-28 and the NZ Offshore powerboat racing on January 28 - have been told to re-submit their applications. The IronMan 70.3 event planned for December 9 was still allowed to go ahead.
Organisers of the powerboat events say they pose no risk of spreading the clams and the biggest risk comes from recreational boaties moving from place to place.
Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board holds the title for Lake Taupō on behalf of Ngāti Tūwharetoa and its announcement would mean all events involving vessels that have previously been in the Waikato River would be cancelled.
The order comes after Biosecurity New Zealand announced a Controlled Area Notice, which banned wake boats that had been used elsewhere from entering a large stretch of the Waikato River.
The Taupō ban does not apply to recreational boaties, but all users of Lake Taupō were asked to report sightings of gold clams and follow Check, Clean, Dry protocols for all watercraft and equipment.
Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board chief executive Rakeipoho Taiaroa said the move to ban certain boating events was necessary to minimise the serious threat of gold clams being spread to the lake.
“We are attempting to reduce the spread of this invasive freshwater clam and ensure we uphold our responsibilities as kaitiaki [guardians].
“We recognise this will impact on those event organisers and participants, and we sympathise with them.
“However, we need to take a precautionary approach at this time until our understanding increases and we have confidence in the biosecurity measures necessary to prevent further spread.”
NZ Offshore president Paul Greenfield said they had been asked to re-submit a plan for their event to reassure Tūwharetoa they posed no risk.
He said the Lake Taupō event was the only one they held in freshwater. All of their other events were in the ocean. The boats were also thoroughly cleaned and stored out of the water for months in between events, whereas the gold clams only survived for five days.
He said they get good support from the community and they also inject funds into the local economy.
“We hire hotels and eat and drink and buy fuel.”
He wasn’t sure what it would take to get their event approved but they would hopefully be able to come up with a plan that was satisfactory.
Hydro Thunder race organiser Denise Preece said they had submitted two plans to Tūwharetoa for their event and had been declined twice.
They had just finished racing in the South Island where there were no gold clams and had offered to cancel their next event in Mangakino to ensure there was no chance of spreading gold clams into the lake, but had still been declined.
“We don’t understand it. We are a controlled event, we don’t have bilges, we don’t even put the trailers in the water. They are performance boats so they are cleaned and polished.”
She said they had already booked accommodation and arranged for crane hire and security. The Taupō leg of the series was one of their larger events and also the penultimate round of the series, before it headed to Lake Karapiro for the finals.
She said the public posed a far greater risk of spreading the clams around than organised regattas.
“We totally respect what they are saying. We don’t want it [the clams] in there as much as they do and we will do whatever we can to prevent that.”
Gold clams were first found in the Waikato at Bob’s Landing in Karāpiro in May this year, and have since been located in several other parts of the river system, including Lake Maraetai and Port Waikato.
There were concerns the introduced species would compete with natives for resources including food and habitat.
They are capable of rapid reproduction and consume the same foods as species such as koura, as well as causing damage to infrastructure such as hydro stations and water pipes.
Attempts made to eradicate the clams elsewhere in the world have been unsuccessful.
The Ministry for Primary Industries classified the species as an unwanted organism in August, meaning it is an offence to knowingly move the clams, or water which may contain it.
The 14 Te Arawa Lakes in the Rotorua region are also under Controlled Area Notices, with additional restrictions applying to Lake Ōkataina.
Tūwharetoa has been approached for further comment.
- Report gold clam sightings on 0800 80 99 66 or at report.mpi.govt.nz/pest.
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