Freshwater has become a key political issue in Aotearoa New Zealand over the last 15 years. Yet the social and ecological values and degraded state of many lakes have received limited public attention to date. In their recently published article ‘Tracing the neglect of lakes in New Zealand’s freshwater politics‘, Kiely McFarlane and Charlotte Šunde explore why lakes have been neglected in contemporary freshwater politics, and its implications for lake management.
Kiely and Charlotte drew on interviews with resource management experts and supplementary data analysis to highlight how lake policy and resourcing have ‘followed the problems’ over the last 100 years. They argue that this history of reactive environmental legislation has been inadequate to curb the deterioration of lake health, especially when combined with the slow accumulation of environmental changes in lakes.
The article further illustrates how variability in regional governance, limited monitoring, and social disconnection have too often meant that lake degradation has been overlooked. This has led to a highly uneven awareness of lake health, values, and issues, with most advocacy and investment focused on a few high-profile lakes. Building on calls to attend to the unique dynamics of water bodies, the article suggests pathways forward for a more inclusive freshwater politics that centres lake health and values.
McFarlane, K., & Šunde, C. (2022). Tracing the neglect of lakes in New Zealand’s freshwater politics. New Zealand Geographer, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1111/nzg.12324 There’s a read-only version of the paper that’s freely accessible here.