Lake Horowhenua work High Court appeal fails
Work to improve Lake Horowhenua is set to get started after an appeal against a court judgment green-lighting the work failed.
The lake, one of the most notoriously polluted in the country, has been the subject of extensive legal action by various parties over the best course of action to improve it.
Horizons Regional Council proposed cleaning the lake by installing a sediment trap, fish pass, and weed harvester, and was granted consents to do so in 2015.
But, the Hokio Trusts appealed the decision to the Environment Court, where it lost in 2016, and went on to take its plea to the High Court.
Its appeal questioned if the Environment Court had the jurisdiction to ‘‘disregard the Crown’s Treaty [of Waitangi] obligations’’.
It alleged that had been done by granting a resource consent for activity taking place on ancestral land, that belonged to people who were direct descendants of those who signed the treaty.
In her decision, Justice Susan Thomas rejected the Hokio Trusts’ appeal.
The weed harvesting was proposed as a key way to address ammonia and cyanobacteria issues with the lake.
While the Muaupoko Tribunal Authority and the Horowhenua Lake Trust supported the harvesting, the Hokio Trust did not.
‘‘This fundamental difference of opinion is at the heart of this appeal.’’
Trusts chairman Philip Taueki believed the trust’s evidence and views should have been given greater weight, saying the trust was the proper way for the owners of the lake to be represented.
He also said the trustees of the Hokio land were descendents of Taueki, who signed the Treaty of Waitangi on behalf of Muaupoko iwi.
That made their claim to kaitiaki, or guardianship, of the lake as stronger than others, he said.
The judge said the Environment Court took the Hokio Trusts’ evidence on board, but found any alternatives for removing bad nutrients from the lake offered by the trust lacked specifics.
The other parties believed the work on the lake would improve things, and help Muaupoko’s relationship with the lake, which it considers a taonga, the judge said.
Taueki also brought up evidence that the lake may go into a permanent state of toxicity. It suffers from toxic algal blooms during the summer, which subside during the winter.
An expert told the Environment Court weed harvesting could disturb sediment, increasing the risk of the lake becoming permanently toxic.
But the judge was happy with the council’s decision to hold a trial year, where extensive monitoring would be done.
Lake Horowhenua is often contaminated with potentially toxic algae.