By JO-MARIE BROWN
Taxpayers are to contribute almost half the money needed to fix Lake Taupo's water-quality problems but locals will have to pay for the remaining $44.8 million themselves.
Environment Minister Marian Hobbs yesterday announced the Government would pay 45 per cent of the $81.5 million needed to reduce the amount of nitrogen entering Lake Taupo over the next 15 years.
The lake is regarded as a national treasure, which the Government has previously said it would help save, but Environment Waikato and the Taupo District Council's 170,000 ratepayers will now have to come up with the rest of the money.
The councils are expected to announce this week how they plan to split the bill but Taupo residents will effectively pay three times over - as national taxpayers, and through their regional and local councils' rates bill.
While Lake Taupo is considered to be healthy, toxic algal blooms are likely to form in future if changes are not made to the way land is used within the catchment.
Large tracts of farmland will need to be converted to forestry and other crops which produce less nitrogen than animals.
Sewerage schemes will also need to be upgraded and new subdivisions and urban developments will have to meet higher environmental standards.
The Government has been working with Taupo's local authorities and Tuwharetoa to tackle the water-quality problem and last month unveiled a plan to achieve those objectives.
But until yesterday no decisions had been made on who would pay for the plan's implementation.
In announcing the Government's $36.7 million contribution, Ms Hobbs said taxpayers' money was needed to preserve the economic and social opportunities in Taupo.
"We are working with our partners to develop a comprehensive programme including a joint public fund that will buy, sell and covenant land so that we can change to low-nitrogen land uses like forestry," she said.
"If we want to preserve the lake for the future, we have to change the way we do things. The fund will be used to support people in doing this."
Environment Waikato spokesman Tony Fenton yesterday said a decision on how much people would pay at a local and regional level was being finalised but it would be based on how much communities would gain from seeing the lake's health improve.
Consequently, Taupo locals would be expected to pay more than Environment Waikato's other ratepayers, who would in turn pay more than national taxpayers.
A series of joint roadshows would be held around Taupo in January to give people the opportunity to comment on the councils' proposed rates charges.
"When we start talking numbers we want to hear what people think," Mr Fenton said.
"The next step will be ... deciding how that money will be used to protect the lake."
Herald Feature: Conservation and Environment
By JO-MARIE BROWN