Over time the perceived values of the geothermal fields have changed. During the beginning of the European colonisation there was a drive to make Rotorua the Spa City of the South Pacific, which included significant government funding. The idea, however, effectively died during the early part of the twentieth century. Following the energy shortages in the early 1950s, the energy potential of the field began to dominate and unconstrained extraction took place. In the mid-1980s the government stepped in and imposed the compulsory closure of many bores and instigated a resource rental regime.
There are still today two schools of thought:
- Those who believe the tourists come to Rotorua to see the geothermal features and who stay in the hotels/motels as a consequence; and
- Those who believe the tourists come to Rotorua to sit in the thermal at the hotels/motels and who visited the geothermal features as a consequence.
With Bay of Plenty Regional Council policing a set level of protection for the geothermal features it seems the main aim in Rotorua is once again to become the Spa City of the South Pacific.
Over the last eight years this new aim has resulted in:
- the renovation of the old Polynesian Pools, now the Polynesian Spa;
- the renovation of the original Blue Baths; and
- a proposal to construct a Baden-Baden like spa complex on vacant land in the centre of Rotorua;
- a surge of major and minor accommodation facilities wanting to offer 'real' geothermal fluid to their clients.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council has faced increasing pressure from new developers, particularly large hotels, wanting to extract and use geothermal fluid but the Geothermal Plan does not permit an increase in the net amount of extraction levels set in 1992. This means that all new takes of fluid will have to be reinjected.