Cultural practices included in lake closures
Thursday, 30 June 2011 12:16 p.m.
New guidelines for closing Rotorua lakes for events will include closures for Māori cultural practices, such as marae ceremonies.
Last week's Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Strategy Group meeting heard the new lake closure guidelines were designed to balance competing use of the lakes. Growth in the number of applications to close Rotorua lakes had put pressure on the Harbour Master to be more selective when approving applications. This is the first time that Māori cultural practises have been incorporated into an operational framework.
Under last year's Regional Navigation Safety Bylaw anyone intending to conduct an organised water activity such as a speed trial, competition, or recognising cultural events or practices on a public water body needs to apply to the Harbour Master to close the area. This enables the Harbour Master to temporarily close a lake and remove any speed restrictions.
The new guidelines gave event managers and local residents consistent and transparent criteria so everyone knew what types of events were appropriate for the Rotorua Lakes and when they could be held, Group Manager Environmental Hazards Ken Tarboton said.
They cover all lake closures, including closures for cultural practises and search and rescue operations. A small area next to a marae could be closed to provide a sound buffer for ceremonies without so they were not disturbed by boats. It also proposed protocols to implement rāhui following a death on a lake.
"Over recent years there has been steady growth in the number of applications to close the Rotorua lakes. The growth in events has benefited the local economy. However, it has also restricted general public access to the lakes and put pressure on local infrastructure which has affected lakeside residents," Mr Tarboton said.
Staff had consulted with the public through the Rotorua Lakes Recreation Forum, the Navigation and Safety Bylaw review process and the Rotorua Lakes Community Board'Pressure on the Lakes'discussion document.
"Rotorua lakes are very unique, with many different competing lake uses requiring partial or full lake closure. Rotorua aspires to host a range of events to develop the local economy. This puts pressure on the Harbour Master to balance economic and recreational benefits against the growing demand for general public access to the lakes."
He said tension from residents around lake events was due to the pressure that larger events placed on land-based facilities and road access.
The draft guidelines aim to maintain public access during peak periods by prohibiting closures during the summer school holidays and public holidays, considering how many lake closures are already booked for a calendar month, prohibiting adjacent lakes from being closed at the same time and preventing events involving a small number of people from closing a lake during the busy summer season.
The guidelines also set protocols for event managers, the Harbour Master, Te Arawa Lakes Trust and local kaumatua if a person dies on a lake within days of a scheduled event and a rāhui or closure is required. Event managers will have the ability to approach kaumatua to allow an event to go ahead even if rāhui is imposed.
Each of the lakes partners would work together to develop an overarching framework during the review of Rotorua District Council's Events Strategy. This framework would direct the entire approval process for lake events and would ensure the lakes partners were working collaboratively when approving events.
For further media information please contact Ken Tarboton, Group Manager Environmental Hazards on 0800 884 880, or Linda Thompson, Senior Communications Advisor, on direct dial 0800 884 881 ext 8149 or (021) 923 339.