If you have been reading the Newsletter over the past few years - even if it is only the Chairman's Report - you will already have a good idea about where LOCA is going and what it is doing. Our newsletter (imaginatively named The Newsletter) and website are our main vehicles for communication.
LOCA prints 300 copies of The Newsletter in full colour, four times a year. It is distributed to all residents and ratepayers interested in receiving a copy. There are also complimentary copies sent to all advertisers and the staff and management of various organisations that LOCA works with at Rotorua Lakes Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Department of Conservation. The annual cost of the Newsletter is $4400 including postage. Every Newsletter has a list of the LOCA Committee members' names and their phone numbers. If you have a question about anything in the Newsletter - or any other matter - please feel free to pick up the phone and give any of us a call.
You can also read about what is happening at Lake Okareka by checking out the LOCA website at www.lakeokareka.org. Since 2012 the Lake Okareka Newsletters and Chairman's Report have been archived here. Other groups that operate within the Lake Okareka catchment such as Lake Okareka Pre School and the Lake Okareka Rural Fire Force also have links to the web site. Volunteer groups such as the Rotorua branch of Forest and Bird who manage the animal pest control project in Tikitapu Scenic Reserve to help protect and encourage the native mistletoe, have a part of the website. Landcare Okareka volunteers look after the Lake Okareka walkway and numerous other reserves around the Lake Okareka catchment, and LO also has a page on the website. Other groups such as the Fishing Club and the Tennis Club (with their fantastic new tennis court surfaces and high perimeter fences) also have pages that the clubs themselves look after on the website.
To give you some idea of some of the issues that the LOCA Committee have dealt with on behalf of the Lake Okareka Community here are some examples from the past which you may already have picked up from The Newsletter or website:
Lake water quality - this is an ongoing issue and has included the installation of the sewage scheme at Lake Okareka. Although there has been no obvious improvement in water quality since then, it is significant that the Trophic Level Index - TLI for Lake Okareka has not deteriorated (reversing a trend that was in place). Other work going on with lake water quality includes requests for further scientific work by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and University of Waikato, looking at the lake TLI, gorse on land in the Lake Okareka catchment, land use change in the catchment and aquatic weeds in the lake.
Supporting efforts to combat the incursion of hornwort aquatic weed into Lake Okareka and dealing with Bay of Plenty Regional Council and LINZ over what they are going to do about that incursion.
Supporting changes made to the management of Lake Okareka water levels and the maintenance upgrade to the outlet pipe and valve by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council which holds the resource consent for the Lake Okareka outlet. Both the outlet pipe and valve were found to have degenerated and required replacement. LOCA also supports a much more proactive management regime by BOPRC staff, to retain water in the lake, especially over the warmer summer months.
Advocacy for a cell phone tower for communication; especially important with emergency situations in the Lake Okareka, Lake Tarawera and Tikitapu catchments (likely to happen over next 3 months).
Consultation, planning and fundraising to complete the walkway around Lake Okareka, (excluding the settlement area), with the first stage between Boyes Beach and the campground well underway.
Management of the Department of Conservation camp, 226 Millar Road - under a management contract with DOC. This was seen as an opportunity to collect funds from outside visitors to put back into conservation activities around Lake Okareka catchment, including the construction of the Lake Okareka walking track to go all the way around Lake Okareka to link up with the existing Lake Okareka walkway.
LOCA supports the volunteers undertaking the Lake Okareka riparian trapping project to protect the dab chicks and other wetland birds, by using some of the DOC camp proceeds to purchase DOC 200 and 250 traps and boxes along with some bait for these traps. Read more about this successful project in Mike Vincent's report in The Newsletter.
Speed of traffic in the Lake Okareka settlement: this concern is being pursued again by the current LOCA Committee. This has been an ongoing concern for other LOCA Committees and local residents in the past - back to the 1990's and before. Over the past few years the new large 50 kph signs which also identify Lake Okareka and ask drivers to reduce their speed were installed by RDC, after requests by a previous Committee of LOCA. Rotorua District Council traffic engineers also installed rumble strips at both ends of the settlement, without any prior consultation with the community. Unfortunately the rumble strips proved to be extremely noisy for those who lived near them, and in the end Council were requested to remove the strips.
Management of the overnight parking/camping at Boyes beach - under a contract with Rotorua District Council - this involves a volunteer going each day to collect camping fees and pick up litter on the reserve. Some of the money raised is used to maintain the Transfer Station and Recycling Facility on Tarawera Road (for the benefit of both Lake Okareka and Lake Tarawera communities).
Money from Boyes beach camping fees has been used to improve the parking areas at Boyes beach, the Acacia Road boat ramp parking area and the car park at the Lake Okareka Community Hall. LOCA has also joined forces with RLC and recently installed automatic lighting in the toilets at Boyes beach.
The Lake Okareka community is being held up by the authorities such as Rotorua Lakes Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the Department of Conservation, as a leading example of a positive, constructive and engaged community that is going places, and is envied by many. If you are keen and interested to take an active part in Lake Okareka community, please feel free to contact any of the groups mentioned - and there are more of these on the website - www.lakeokareka.org - we are sure you will be made to feel most welcome.
Geoff Palmer Sandra Goodwin
Lake Okareka Community Association, February 2016