The geothermal resource in the Bay of Plenty is made up of more than 10 geothermal areas, including the Waimangu, Rotorua, Tauranga and Kawerau systems, as shown on the map below. Some of these are world-renowned for their outstanding geothermal surface features.
In the Bay of Plenty, geothermal activity is associated with areas of active or recently active tectonic movement. Deeply circulating ground waters are heated by molten magma, and the fluid is trapped within porous rocks. In some cases, heated water rises naturally along fault planes and fractured rock to produce surface features (such as mud pools, geysers, hot springs etc.), while in other cases geothermal energy is only accessible by drilling deep bores.
Most systems in our region lie within the Taupo Volcanic Zone, which extends southwards into the Waikato region and offshore to Whakaari/White Island in the north.
Geothermal resources are a critical part of the region’s economy, culture and heritage. As well as providing energy, power, tourism and wellness opportunities, the cultural significance and historical uses are part of our national identity.
Our geothermal resource includes:
- Thermal energy contained in rocks deep in the earth and carried by water
- Hot lakes, streams and mineralised fluids
- Fragile and unique crystalline structures (such as sinter terraces and sulphur crystals)
- Steaming ground and fumaroles
- Boiling mud pools
- Hot springs (including geysers)
- The unique plants, animals and micro-organisms that live there.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council works closely with GNS Science, Waikato Regional Council and the New Zealand Geothermal Association in its work to manage and understand more about the region’s geothermal systems.
Diagram of a geothermal system
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Map of Geothermal Areas
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What is the role of Council in managing the resource?
Council functions are set out in the Resource Management Act 1991, and the Bay of Plenty Regional Policy Statement provides the overarching objectives and policies. Objectives, policies and rules are also contained in the Regional Water and Land Plan and the Rotorua Geothermal Regional Plan. City and district councils have responsibilities for land use and natural hazard planning functions, so councils must work together to achieve integrated management of the geothermal areas.
What work is the Council currently doing?
Council has a geothermal work programme which includes all elements of geothermal management, such as science, consents, compliance and policy.
The programme focuses on coordinating our work on the systems across the region, addressing immediate issues, generating a level of public awareness, and working with key stakeholders and the community.
A key focus for 2016 to 2018 will be a review of existing geothermal planning provisions and the development of system management plans for the Rotorua, Tauranga and Kawerau systems. See our news page for updates.
Ultimately the programme is about ensuring there is a balance between current use and future development, and to ensure the future sustainability of the resource.
Other useful pages:
New Zealand Geothermal Association
Waikato Regional Council
Frying Pan Lake, Waimangu Geothermal Field
Image: © GNS Science