Northland's precious — and fragile — dune lakes are now better protected thanks to community support and a cash injection from regional and central government.

The Northland Dune Lakes Strategic Water Quality Improvement project aims to invest almost $1.6m over five years to protect more than two dozen dune lakes on the Aupōuri Peninsula in the Far North and the Pouto/Kai Iwi Lakes area in the Kaipara.

The project is funded by the Ministry for the Environment and the Northland Regional Council (NRC), which have each contributed $782,697.

The Ministry's Freshwater Improvement Fund focuses on water bodies which are showing signs of stress but haven't reached a tipping point, after which it becomes much more difficult and expensive to restore them to health.

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NRC environmental services manager Bruce Howse said the dune lakes project included initiatives to reduce nutrient levels – such as fencing to keep stock out and reticulation to provide stock water – as well as removing pest fish and water weeds.

"These all involve a strong degree of collaboration between our council, central government, local iwi and our primary sector with a shared goal of improving freshwater quality."

Many hands make light work during a planting day at Lake Waiparera. Photo / NRC
Many hands make light work during a planting day at Lake Waiparera. Photo / NRC

Howse said the most recent work was at lakes Wahakari and Waiparera in the Far North, and Lake Shag and Midgley's Lake in the Kai Iwi Lakes area.

"Lake Wahakari covers roughly 90ha and is a water source for some in for the Te Kao community, so the fencing work along its northern lakefront which has stopped stock access is long overdue and a big win for the wider community."

Similarly, the completion of two fencing projects at Lake Waiparera meant the entire 108ha lake was now fully fenced to exclude stock.

Other work at Waiparera included pest fishing and eradication of the invasive water weeds.

Further south, Howse says Lake Shag, just north of the popular Kai Iwi Lakes, had also been fully fenced and reticulated.

Te Roroa was investigating planting a large area between the fence and the lake, which, if it went ahead, would also contribute to improved water quality.

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Privately-owned Midgley's Lake had been reticulated with intentions of fencing it through separate NRC funding later this year.

Go to www.nrc.govt.nz/dunelakesproject for more information.