Lake Waituna opening consent application 2021/22
The existing permits that provide for openings of Waituna Lagoon expired in early 2022.
Lake Waituna has been periodically opened to the sea by artificial means since 1908. The initial openings were to aid game fish passage and since 1958 the primary purpose of the openings has been to aid land drainage. Lake openings also enable the flushing of nutrients and sediment and aid native fish passage. The Lake has generally been opened about once a year, usually when the lake level gets to 2m above sea level. The existing permits (in place until decisions are made about the opening consent) include resource consent conditions that determine when the Lake can be opened at different times of year, including specific water levels.
Ongoing work on to improve the ecological health of Lake Waituna and its catchment led to the formation of the Whakamana Te Waituna Charitable Trust. The Trust has implemented a number of initiatives including a programme of work within the Waituna catchment focused on improving the health of the lagoon and ensuring the rural community thrives. Part of this work programme has focused on relieving the pressure on farm land from high lagoon levels by creating a landward buffer.
In 2020/21, the Trust initiated a workstream to develop an opening regime for the Waituna Lagoon that supports ecological health and cultural values. This involved reviewing the current consent conditions and considering a broad range of ecological and cultural values associated with the lagoon. A Technical Assessment has been prepared that assesses the effects of openings and makes recommendations on a new opening regime based on ecological and cultural values. The Technical Assessment recommends an opening level of 2.5 metres as well as provisions to open the lagoon to facilitate fish passage and for flushing excessive nutrients.
Te Rūnanga o Awarua and the Department of Conservation lodged a resource consent application for replacement permits. The primary purpose of the application is to establish a new opening regime focused on the ecological health and cultural values of Waituna Lagoon.