Farmer swamped by Lake Ōmāpere - Feature

By Dean Nathan

Nearly two hundred acres of Doug and Chris Smalls' farm remains underwater since the level of the Ōmāpere Lake rose by over a meter following the recent deluge. 

The forecast predicts that it could take up to four months for the water to recede to the level prior to the storm.

Doug Small says, “Very hard the exceptional rain fall and it’s really demoralising.”

However it is a perspective that differs markedly from that held by families who have lived on the lake for generations.

Ani Martin from the Lake Omapere Trust believes, " I do feel for them, but in actual fact the lake is just claiming back the area it occupied prior to the multitude of times it's been interfered with and now it's back to where it was.”

This week, representatives of the Northland Regional Council and Federated Farmers met in person with the Lake Ōmāpere Trust.

Ani Martin also says, “We must remember that it's our water and it's our lake and not theirs. So it's up to us to lead the revitalisation of the lake and we need to work with Pākehā to achieve that, but they need to come and talk with us and we will assist them.”

Taking in the views it's quite clear to see this is a place of significance and a centre of a past civilisation with the lake providing a major food source.

The largest lake in Northland is also of national significance due to the fact that both the lake bed and water are Māori owned.

The Northland Regional Council estimates the lake volume has increased by over 12 million litres with farmer Doug Small seeking an urgent solution whereby he can return to farming as soon as is practicable.

With the support from Doug Small’s bank, he was able to purchase his farm two seasons ago at a price tag of approximately $10mil, and despite the current situation he is facing, his sights remain fixed on the long term goal.

Doug says, “Yes very much the long run, yep I intend to raise my family here, I intend my sons to farm this farm so, it not a flash in the pan its continual improvement.”

Despite the different perspectives, it's clear that the health of the lake is the paramount issue and only by working together will the aspirations of all the stakeholders be achieved. It truly is the most important asset of the people of this district.