Exemptions for the water quality of the most polluted lake in New Zealand could lead to protests and legal action. The exemption on the quality of the water in the lake shows a poor understanding of the history and issues surrounding the lake, according to The Office of Maori Crown Relations.
Lake Horowhenua is located near Levin and has become very polluted due to wastewater, storm water and farm run-off being funneled into it for many years. In the past the lake was a very good source of mana and was considered a taonga but the water has now become so toxic that scientists have warned that it could kill a child if too much water were to be swallowed.
The bottom of the lake is the final resting place for a number of iwi members who were killed in a massacre by Te Rauparaha in the 1820s. New Zaland’s environment minister David Parker had agreed to the exemption of the Horowhenua Lake from the new freshwater standards implemented nation-wide in New Zealand. He acknowledged that trying to enforce the standards at Horowhenua where a large proportion of the countries vegetables were grown would lead to a big decrease in production.
Since the exemption came to light there have been warnings that it could breach good faith and relationship agreements with the iwi and could cause legal issues down the line. Te Arawhiti has said that the exemption showed a lack of understanding about the history of the lake and past work in trying to clean up the lake. In 2017 it was found that the Crown was complicit in the activities causing the pollution of the lake and it was recommended that a body be appointed to oversee the cleanup of the lake. Since then no steps have been taken to improve the condition of the lake.