ORC Lakes Management Project - Complete!

You may have noticed in the media recently that the review work for the Otago Regional Council (ORC)’s lakes project has been completed.

Landpro were called in earlier this year to study the current state of the region’s lakes and determine whether an Otago Lakes Strategy was potentially needed. The lakes are a taonga (treasure) and of huge importance to the region, as outlined in our previous article announcing the award of this project to Landpro and by the Otago Regional Council in their announcement on the project’s conclusion.

The challenge the ORC was facing was a lack of baseline data to determine the current health of our lakes and ensure they maintain their quality moving forward. To tackle this project and provide evidence-based recommendations, Landpro were to perform a full stocktake on the current state of knowledge about the lakes, their value to the community, their environmental status, existing pressures, and the existing framework for managing the lakes throughout the region.

This involved completing a study to understand the current state, including:

  • Establishing which lakes to include, from over 7,000 mapped lakes in the region. We narrowed it down to a subset of 83 lakes to study – providing a representative cross-section. The lakes were divided into five categories: Deep water lakes, remote high-altitude lakes, accessible high-altitude lakes, dams and reservoirs, and coastal/lowland lakes.
  • A literature review to summarise the existing environmental state of Otago’s lakes, determined by water quality and ecological health.
  • A full review of the relevant lake management documents, plans, policies, and management strategies to understand how Otago’s lakes are currently being managed.
  • Collating the available information on the value of lakes to the community, drawn from previous ORC and community-led consultations, cultural values statements, and Iwi Management Plans.
  • Seeking feedback from 86 key stakeholder groups involved in the region’s lakes management, through conducting surveys and informal interviews.

The resulting report summarised the outcomes of this study, and its findings formed the basis for our recommendations to the ORC. Our conclusions and draft recommendations were presented to stakeholders in two workshops, held in Cromwell and virtually. Feedback from these workshops, alongside comments from ORC staff, were incorporated into the final report and recommendations for the ORC.

The primary recommendation was that an Otago Lakes Strategy was needed. This recommendation was accepted by Otago Regional Council at a meeting in December. In total, 43 recommendations were included for the council to enhance lakes management in the region.

The council has now agreed to move into phase 2 of a lakes management scoping study and create a working group for this project. This will clarify the purpose, scope and function of a lakes plan.

Claire Perkins, Landpro Planning Manager and Project Leader, says “Our team really enjoyed getting stuck into this project and engaging with stakeholders across the region to understand how management of our lakes is or isn’t working. It is great to see ORC taking our recommendations on board and we look forward to an opportunity to work with the council in the future to improve lakes management across the region.”