Fo­cus­ing on wa­ter man­age­ment


An al­gae (lin­davia in­ter­me­dia) that ex­udes a slimy sub­stance called lake snow was re­cently found in Lakes Wanaka, Wakatipu and Hawea.

Although it is non-toxic, it’s a nui­sance for wa­ter users. If it gets into the res­i­den­tial wa­ter sup­ply, it can cause block­ages, and clog fil­ters and house­hold ap­pli­ances.

The Otago Re­gional Coun­cil is work­ing with stake­hold­ers and re­searchers to find out more about what it is, where it comes from, what in­flu­ences it and how it could be man­aged.

The draft an­nual plan in­cludes a pro­posal to al­lo­cate staff time and $100,000 of gen­eral rates to­wards re­search­ing the prob­lem.

The re­search is cru­cial – it’s our best hope of iden­ti­fy­ing the causes of lake snow.

The coun­cil hosted a tech­ni­cal work­shop in De­cem­ber.

As a fol­lowup, re­search pri­or­ity was given to a ge­netic study be­ing un­der­taken for the coun­cil by Phil No­vis, of

Land­care Re­search, to trace the al­gal source and clar­ify whether it is an in­va­sive species from the North­ern Hemi­sphere.

We ex­pect to have the re­sults of ge­netic test­ing on this al­gae in June.

This will help in­form what the next re­search pri­or­ity is and de­ter­mine if it is a na­tional is­sue as a new in­cur­sion.

As a coun­cil, we are un­der no illusions about the im­por­tance of these south­ern lakes to our com­mu­nity, our en­vi­ron­ment, and our econ­omy, since their pic­ture-post­card scenery at­tracts vis­i­tors from around New

Zealand and the world.

We are giv­ing it high pri­or­ity, en­deav­our­ing to dis­cover what the trig­gers are for this al­gae and work to find ways to min­imise its dis­rup­tive im­pact on peo­ple and the en­vi­ron­ment.

We have also been work­ing with stake­hold­ers to ensure the com­mu­nity is in­formed of the facts.

The Wanaka com­mu­nity turned out in droves for the Lab at the Lake event that we ran on April 2 in part­ner­ship with the Univer­sity of Otago’s Catch­ments Otago re­search theme group.

Around 450 peo­ple en­gaged with lake sci­ence via live fish dis­plays, face paint­ing of fish based on the species liv­ing in Lake Wanaka, clar­ity tubes, a ‘dress up as a lake sci­en­tist’ photo op, wa­ter quality dis­play con­tent, Lab-in- a-box, a Check Clean Dry dis­play, and more. The feed­back was over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive.

About 50 peo­ple at­tended The Lakes and I PechaKucha night on March 31 at Queen­stown Pri­mary School. Six speak­ers spoke about their con­nec­tion to the lakes in rapid-fire pre­sen­ta­tions of 20 slides in 20 sec­onds each.

It’s great to see so many peo­ple turn­ing out for events like these and show­ing so much in­ter­est in the sci­ence and monitoring we are do­ing.

The draft an­nual plan for 2017-18 has a strong fo­cus on wa­ter man­age­ment and wa­ter quality.

It is out for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion and sub­mis­sions close on May 12.


Stephen Wood­head is chair­man of Otago Re­gional Coun­cil.

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