Guardians float Lake Dunstan joint action plan

by Kim Bowden - Jun 24, 2020

A group of Cromwell locals is lobbying those responsible for managing Lake Dunstan to sign up to a better way of working.

Guardians of Lake Dunstan has drafted a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Central Otago District Council (CODC), Otago Regional Council (ORC), Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), and Contact Energy.

The lake watchdogs delivered the MOU to all parties on Friday.

The objective of the MOU is to get them working together to create and execute a management plan for the lake.

Guardians of Lake Dunstan chairman Duncan Faulker says the MOU will help ensure a holistic approach to the future management of 'orphan' Lake Dunstan

Guardians chairman Duncan Faulkner says the group has been engaging the community and figuring out what the town’s residents want from the lake.

But, to move forward with some “big” ideas the Guardians need to get local authorities, LINZ and Contact onboard with their vision.

The group itself has no authority over the lake, so an MOU will give it the teeth it needs to make plans and see projects through to fruition, he says.

“We have been recognised by the community as being the body that is guarding the lake.

“So, the purpose of the MOU is really for those organisations to acknowledge the Guardians and make a commitment to working with us and therefore the wider community.”

Plenty of people have a hand in managing the man-made lake, Mr Faulkner says.

“There’s different organisations responsible for what’s above the lake, on the lake, under the lake and around the lake.”

As each has gone about looking after its own patch some of the bigger-picture aspirations townsfolk have for their watery backyard haven’t been championed.

“None of those organisations were following a particular plan, they were just looking after their part of the problem or their part of the responsibility, which is why we’ve got this orphan, neglected lake.”

The MOU seeks to “have everyone in the same room” so issues can be talked through, questions answered and projects enabled, in a timely manner and with accountability, Mr Faulkner says.

The MOU says the key principles of the lake management plan will be protection, social and recreational development, enhancement, economic development and financial viability of the lake.

For Mr Faulkner, it’s about putting a management framework in place to ensure Lake Dunstan is a well-utilised community resource.

It’s about developing the lake for domestic tourism, making sure there are inviting spots for families to swim and picnic lakeside, offering infrastructure for rowers and other water-sport enthusiasts, keeping the lake healthy and supporting biodiversity and, potentially, generating a bit of cash to support these endeavours.

And, these aren’t just his aspirations, they’re what the community has fed back to the Guardians over months of consultation by the group, he says.

Where-to for the future managment of Lake Dunstan depends on buy-in from separate parites all with their own responsibilities for the lake.

Where to from here depends on buy-in from CODC, ORC, LINZ and Contact.

At a meeting of all parties chaired by the Guardians in December, the concept of an MOU was raised, and those in attendance agreed in principal to it, Mr Faulkner says.

Mayor Tim Cadogan - won't answer Crux questions

Keen to gauge engagement from the respective organisations for this community-led development initiative, Crux this week asked each whether they saw a need for the MOU and whether they would move forward with it.

We also asked each organisation what they saw as the main challenges and/or opportunities when it came to management of the lake and how they thought the MOU and the management plan proposed within it might address or champion these.

ORC operations general manager Gavin Palmer replied saying the regional council acknowledges the important work the Guardians do, and it supports the intent of the MOU to strengthen the collaborative relationship between the various parties that have a role in the management of Lake Dunstan.

It is reviewing the document and will be able to comment in more detail at a later date, he says.

LINZ’s Stephanie Forrest confirmed a copy of the MOU has been received and LINZ is also reviewing it.

Contact's Neil Gillespie - no comment for now

Neil Gillespie of Contact says he has also received the document but declined to answer Crux questions, saying he first wants to discuss the proposed MOU with the other parties and the Guardians.

Meanwhile, a CODC spokesperson has said staff were unaware of the MOU, despite Mayor Tim Cadogan being at the December meeting.

When asked directly by Crux whether he will champion this Cromwell community-led initiative, the mayor replied saying he will not answer questions.

If they choose to be party to the MOU, each organisation is initially committing to quarterly meetings with at least one representative in attendance.

In addition, an individual from each organisation will be identified as a primary contact for the Guardians, to ensure effective communication.

Missed Crux's recent feature on disappearing Lake Dunstan? Read it here.

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