The native lakeshore vegetation was removed from a wetland between their home and the lake at Otautu Bay. The area is within the marginal strip and is administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC). An anonymous tip-off led DOC rangers to the site, where large quantities of raupō had been removed and dumped.
Maintaining natural wetland vegetation is important to help improve the water quality of Lake Rotoehu.
“Raupō is known for its water purification properties. It helps clean the waterways and is an important habitat for wildlife including eels, and wetland birds such as dabchick, spotless crakes and bittern,” says DOC Ranger Catherine Noble.
Raupō also has important cultural values, being used in traditional cooking, as a building material and to make poi.
“Raupō naturally dies back each winter, and then re-generates in spring. Unfortunately, when the raupō was removed it provided the opportunity for invasive weeds to spread into the area.”
As vegetation on the marginal strip is protected by the Conservation Act 1987, individuals who remove vegetation without permission could face prosecution and a fine of up to $100,000 or imprisonment for up to two years.
“This case serves as another reminder to the public to check boundaries and land ownership and seek any necessary permissions from relevant authorities before undertaking any work in or near lake margins or waterways,” says Catherine Noble.
DOC has been focusing on unauthorised activities on marginal strips around the Rotorua lakes in recent years. DOC has been engaged with a variety of neighbouring landowners with a project to limit ongoing unauthorised use by some occupiers which had occurred over many years.
Members of the public are encouraged to call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) if they see any unusual activity, removal of vegetation or earthworks on any reserve or lake shore marginal strip.