At first glance, Lake Horowhenua looks pretty. It’s only up close that it looks less inviting. Scum and slime cover the rocks at the water’s edge and the snot-coloured water is clouded by suspended sediment. It is, by common consent, an environmental disgrace. In terms of water quality, the Ministry for the Environment rates it 107th out of 114 New Zealand lakes. In February last year, Niwa freshwater scientist Max Gibbs shocked Horizons Regional Council members by telling them that in certain conditions, the water was toxic enough to be lethal if swallowed by a small child. If there were a competition to find New Zealand’s most conflict-prone body of water, Lake Horowhenua would be a runaway winner. It has polarised local civic leaders, vexed the judiciary, appalled environmentalists and set Maori against Maori. ...
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