Clean up of Lake Whangape begins

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

A number of agencies will work together to clean up Lake Whangape, once a food source for local Māori in Rangiriri is now so polluted health signs were erected to warn the public of the dangers. 

The clean up agreement comes 10 years after the Waikato River Settlement was signed.

Blessings are first offered to clear the way for work to begin.

“This was the food cupboard of our ancestors, Lake Whangape,” says elder Pat Kiingi of Ngāti Pou, Ngāti Naho, “It was abundant in eels, that was their food when our elders lived here.”

Waikato-Tainui, Ngā Muka Development Trust, Waikato Regional Council, The Department of Conservation (DOC) and landowners are working together in the clean up of the lake now polluted by farming effluence, koi carp and also alligator weed.

 “Whangapu is a root area where the weed starts and grows rampantly,” says Brad Totorewa, DOC representative for King Tuheitia, “So to fix this we need to hit them here, where growth begins.”

Waikato-Tainui signed their Raupatu River Settlement in 2008.  The tribe is investing $100,000 towards the restoration.

“They've seen this lake from its pristine condition to where it is now,” says Waikato-Tainui environment manager Taroi Rawiti, “They're sort of guiding us on how to get back there.”

One kaumātua said he once had no concerns about drinking the water from the Lake.  Locals expect the water will be returned to its former pristine quality to drink and also as a food source.

“Through this our lake will recover, eels will return along with other marine life in 50 years perhaps,” says Totorewa.

26km of fencing will be erected to keep stock away from the lake and 50,000 plantings will be established to minimise farming runoff before weed eradication begins.