‘Keep your nose out’

Hori­zons chair­man has a blast at his own coun­cil

Whanganui Chronicle - - Front Page - Lau­rel Stowell

Hori­zons chair­man Bruce Gor­don has blasted his own coun­cil, say­ing it needs to “keep their nose out” of the lake he man­ages after it is­sued swim warn­ings due to high lev­els of al­gae.

Gor­don, who leads the re­gional coun­cil, said warn­ing signs were keep­ing peo­ple away from Dud­ding Lake, a pop­u­lar vis­i­tor spot be­tween Whanganui and Bulls.

And he added Hori­zons didn’t “con­trib­ute any­thing ex­cept for putting out warn­ings that are do­ing a lot of dam­age”.

He hit out after re­gional coun­cil wa­ter spokesman Barry Gilliland this week again is­sued a warn­ing that the blue green al­gae den­sity in the lake ex­ceeded recre­ational guide­lines.

“Warn­ing sig­nage was posted last week and needs to re­main,” said Gilliland. “It is best to stay away un­til this bloom burns it­self out.”

Mean­while, the chil­dren of Dud­ding Lake care­taker Quentin Salepau have suf­fered a red, sting­ing rash that lasted two days after swim­ming in the lake three weeks ago — be­fore warn­ing signs were put up.

But Gor­don said the coun­cil’s mes­sage was mak­ing peo­ple can­cel their book­ings.

He is both the op­er­a­tions man­ager for Dud­ding Lake Mo­tor Camp and Pic­nic Park, near Mar­ton, and the chair­man of the re­gional coun­cil charged with main­tain­ing and mon­i­tor­ing the wa­ter there.

But he said he saw no con­flict of in­ter­est be­tween his two roles.

Gilliland later clar­i­fied he meant to tell peo­ple to stay out of the wa­ter, not out of the whole re­serve.

How­ever, Salepau said the lake was the re­serve’s main draw­card, and the al­gal bloom was putting off campers.

“Ever since the no­tices have been up no one has been here ex­cept a jet­boat,” he said. “Last week­end it was dead.”

It’s been a strug­gle to keep the fa­cil­ity go­ing and money from campers was needed. Gor­don said mes­sages from the coun­cil he chairs have been a prob­lem.

“We would like Hori­zons to keep their nose out of the place, to be quite hon­est,” he said.

“They don’t con­trib­ute any­thing ex­cept for putting out warn­ings that are do­ing a lot of dam­age.”

Hori­zons had as­sumed re­spon­si­bil­ity with­out be­ing asked, Gor­don said, and it didn’t mon­i­tor other coastal lakes as closely.

“They stick their nose in some­times where they’re not wanted.”

It was too cold to swim at the mo­ment, he said, and wa­ter­skiers in wet­suits would not be harmed by the al­gae. Peo­ple just needed to avoid their skin con­tact­ing the shal­low wa­ter around the lake edge.

Yes­ter­day Hori­zons staff were test­ing the wa­ter again, and a close look showed it was full of tiny par­ti­cles. Gor­don said the lake of­ten has al­gal blooms early in the sea­son, which die down later.

Al­gal blooms hap­pen when wa­ter is warm and has plenty of nu­tri­ents — such as ni­tro­gen and phos­pho­rous from farm­ing run-off. Dud­ding Lake has farm­land, in­clud­ing some crops, on one side and forestry on the other.

It is Hori­zons’ job to set rules that limit nu­tri­ent run-off, and last year two en­vi­ron­men­tal groups took it to court for fail­ing to reg­u­late. The coun­cil lost the case, and it is now seek­ing to change the max­i­mum ni­tro­gen leach­ing fig­ures al­lowed by its One Plan.

Dud­ding Lake has a few fresh­wa­ter mus­sels (kakahi), and more may be added to fil­ter the wa­ter.

Gor­don said non-breed­ing carp could also be in­tro­duced to eat lake weed, and stock still have ac­cess at times when the wa­ter is high.

He doesn’t doubt the re­sults Hori­zons sci­en­tists come up with, but says Ran­git¯ıkei Dis­trict Coun­cil’s Blair Jamieson has bet­ter so­lu­tions to the al­gae prob­lem.

“I’m go­ing to tell Michael [Mc­Cart­ney, Hori­zons chief ex­ec­u­tive], let’s just let Ran­git¯ıkei do it.”

The Chron­i­cle has come across a few in­stances of a mayor or coun­cil leader at­tempt­ing to de­fend their staff even when they have stuffed up.

But it is rare in­deed to find one at­tack­ing coun­cil staff for do­ing their job.

That seems to be the un­happy po­si­tion Hori­zons Re­gional Coun­cil chair­man Bruce Gor­don finds him­self in this week.

The mon­i­tor­ing of wa­ter qual­ity is an im­por­tant part of the work of our re­gional coun­cil and, not for the first time, the blight of al­gal bloom has caused staff to warn the pub­lic about tak­ing a dip in Dud­ding Lake.

Pub­lic health and safety are pri­or­i­ties, and so the “Don’t swim” signs have been erected around the lake which lies be­tween Whanganui and Bulls, near Mar­ton, and is a reg­u­lar stop for tourists.

The staff ap­pear to have acted cor­rectly — al­gal bloom can cause painful rashes on swim­mers, as the chil­dren of the lake’s care­taker found out.

The warn­ings are un­doubt­edly go­ing to keep peo­ple away from the lake — that is their in­ten­tion — and that has up­set Gor­don who is also the op­er­a­tions man­ager for the nearby mo­tor camp.

His con­cern at the lack of vis­i­tors has prompted him to tell his staff to “keep their noses out”,

The staff ap­pear

to have acted cor­rectly — al­gal bloom can cause painful rashes on

swim­mers.

and looks to have put him at odds with his own coun­cil’s pol­icy.

It should be pointed out there are no prob­lems with the camp or sur­round­ing area; it is just the wa­ter that poses a dan­ger.

It has been sug­gested there is a con­flict of in­ter­est for the Hori­zons chair­man with his roles as lo­cal au­thor­ity leader and mo­tor camp man­ager, but he does not see it that way.

We must hope the al­gae quickly dis­si­pates, the signs come down and all can fully en­joy the lake’s at­trac­tions this sum­mer.

Pho­tos / Stu­art Munro

Dud­ding Lake looks serene but its blue green al­gae level is twice the max­i­mum rec­om­mended for swim­ming.

Signs warn­ing against swim­ming have been up at Dud­ding Lake for two weeks, while in the back­ground re­gional coun­cil staff take wa­ter sam­ples.

Bruce Gor­don

“Don’t swim” signs have gone up at Dud­ding Lake.

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