Indigenous | Lake Horowhenua

Muaupoko protests against Lake Horowhenua’s exemption from national water standards

Horowhenua Lake Trust and Muaupoko Tribal Authority members are still fighting to protect and clean up Lake Horowhenua/Punahau near Levin.

They staged a protest at the Court of Appeal in Wellington against a 10-year exemption of Lake Horowhenua/Punahau from the national freshwater standards, which regulate the health and ecosystems of freshwater.

Under the National Policy Statement on Fresh Water Management 2020, the lake is to be exempt due to the area being a critical vegetable-growing region. Excessive nitrogen and phosphates are a key issue for Lake Horowhenua, one of the country’s most polluted waterways.

The court is hearing an appeal by the Horowhenua Lake Trust and Muaupoko Tribal Authority this week seeking a judicial review of the issue.

Muaupoko spokesman Dean Wilson says the iwi has been dealing with issues that affect their ability to make decisions on their own for centuries and over the past year the iwi has seen the impacts of the water quality on wildlife.

Crown’s obligation

“Muaupoko is of the belief that there is an obligation on the Crown to uphold the lake’s life force and to support the iwi.”

“Last year, between 2,000 and 5,000 birds and 1,200 tuna died at Punahau.”

Kelly Tahiwi, from Muaupoko, says Punahau is more than just a lake and she says the Crown has already admitted breaches to the Treaty of Waitangi.

“Punahau is our life force, our sustenance, and our storehouse of knowledge.”

“They have already acknowledged that they have breached the kaitiakitanga of our taonga, Punahau, which has already been acknowledged in our priority report for the Waitangi tribunal.T