Weed nearly takes life
Lucky Uerata almost lost his life because of overgrown weed at Lake Maraetai.
Ironically, it was pure luck that the 14-year-old boy is alive to tell the tale today.
During the Christmas holidays Lucky and his cousin, who was camping by the lake, decided to swim out to the pontoon just off the lake’s shore.
Lucky said his cousin must have chosen a weed-free route, but he wasn’t so fortunate.
The last thing he remembered before blacking out was frantically trying to jump up for air.
But the weeds on the lake bed had a firm grip around the Tokoroa boy’s legs.
‘‘I remember trying to yell out to my cousin for help.
‘‘The weed just wrapped around me and I couldn’t move at all.’’
It was a member of the public who noticed Lucky had not surfaced after a couple of minutes and ran in and hauled his body out.
A nearby nurse ran over and performed CPR on the youth who eventually started breathing.
‘‘It was weird because I woke up and saw my mum crying and I was like ‘what’s wrong mum?’ ’’
Lake front business owner Garry Gradwell saw the incident unravel.
In his nine years living in Mangakino, he had never seen anything like it – or the weed as thick as it was then. Not that that surprised him. ‘‘When I first started here, it [the weed harvester] would come just before Labour Weekend and the lake bed would stay clear for the summer.’’
That happened for two years, he said.
‘‘Then it stopped. It came last winter but before that I hadn’t seen it for about six years.’’
He said he has sent numerous messages off to both the Taupo District Council and Waikato Regional Council to ask who was responsible.
But after numerous dead ends he took it upon himself to fix the problem.
He cooked hot chips free of charge for holiday stayers, both adults and children, to rake the weeds up.
The bank was lined with weeds by the end of the exercise, he said.
When contacted by the South Waikato News the WRC said it was aware of the near-death incident but said Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) was responsible for weed clearance.
Hornwort is a submerged, floating aquatic weed that is widespread throughout the North Island.
It is not listed in Waikato’s regional pest management strategy.
LINZ acting group manager crown property John Hook said levels at Lake Maraetai were ‘‘periodically’’ controlled by the use of a weed harvester owned and made available by Mighty River Power.
‘‘ Some control work was undertaken by Mighty River Power in the affected area of the lake last week at the request of LINZ.’’
Hook said it was not clear that weed levels were significantly higher this year than in previous years despite Gradwell’s claims.
‘‘However we are aware of the incident in which a teenager was caught in the weed around Christmas.
‘‘We and our partners – Taupo District Council and Waikato Regional Council – are taking this very seriously and are currently considering options to agree a long-term solution to this problem.’’
Last Wednesday the harvester turned up to the lake and while it is better than nothing, Gradwell said it would have made more sense to clear the weeds before Christmas.
‘‘Everyone’s gone home now... We rely on visitors and the lake is the biggest attraction for them.
‘‘A lot of people won’t come back because of it [the weed],’’ he said.
WEED NUISANCE: Garry Gradwell believes the weed harvester should come before Christmas, as it used to, to keep the lake bed clear for young swimmers.