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Changes to Okere Gates operation for summer

Wednesday, 14 January 2015 10:00 a.m.

Regular and occasional users of the Kaituna River will be safer than ever this summer following changes to operating times for the Okere Gates.

Under the Okere Gates operational management plan, gate opening and closing times are limited to outside business hours – before 8am and after 5pm. But in summer recreational users are often still on the river in the evenings and water level changes pose a risk to them, so the hours are now before 8am and after 9pm.

The 9pm time will be brought forward again as the days get shorter.

The changes have been implemented because recreational users of the Kaituna River don’t always receive email notifications of gate opening and closing times. Visitors to the area were often unaware of the gates and the possibility of rapid changes in water levels when they’re opened.

“If anyone’s downstream of the gates and hasn’t got our email notification (of gates opening) they’re potentially at risk,” says Bay of Plenty Regional Council principal engineering surveyor Graeme O’Rourke.

Anyone can sign up to receive email notifications of gate opening and closing times. To register please email Graeme.O'Rourke@boprc.govt.nz.

The Okere Gates were built in 1982 to regulate the flow of water from Lake Rotoiti into the Kaituna River to control lake levels. Heavy rain can lead to lake flooding, and the gates can release excess water into the Kaituna River, maintaining a safe water level in the lake and reducing the impact of flooding. The risk to recreational users therefore only applies during heavy rain and isn’t a daily concern.

"Control of river flow is also used to facilitate good quality water in Lake Rotoiti and it accommodates commercial operators on the river as much as possible,” Graeme says.

In addition to time changes, the gates’ opening rate has been reduced from 10 cumecs per hour to five cumecs per hour after 5pm, and signs have been installed at popular locations downstream of the Okere Gates to warn users of fluctuating river levels and flows.

“If anyone’s on the river when the gates open, 10 cumecs can create a lot of extra energy and can pose a danger,” Graeme says.

“These interim measures will be reconsidered this year to potentially review/update consent conditions and the Okere Gates Operational Management Plan.

“It’s all in the name of health and safety for recreational users on the river over summer.”

okere gates