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.
Reviewing management of the Rotorua geothermal system
Bay of Plenty Regional Council manages the geothermal system under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), using the Regional Policy Statement (RPS) and the Rotorua Geothermal Regional Plan as guidance for resource consents. We must manage the Rotorua Geothermal System sustainably and to protect surface features. The current regional plan does this by requiring reinjection, limiting net loss of water to the system and controlling taking of heat and water near Pohutu Geyser.
Our monitoring and research tells us that the system’s health has improved. More reinjection has led to water levels in the aquifer increasing by over two metres. As a result some surface features have recovered well, but not all. We know that at least some of what we are doing now has worked - we need to move forward carefully so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.
We need to review the regional plan to make sure that it is dealing with the right issues and doing this effectively. Our starting point is checking what we know – what the RPS tells us to do, monitoring trends, where the current plan is working, and where it is not. From there we can identify key issues and options for the new plan.
To start the discussion some possible issues and options are shown in the documents which you can download below. Some of these options are new, but we have also kept what is already working well. We need your thoughts on whether we are heading in the right direction.
About geothermal resources
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 (like mud pools, geysers and hot springs), 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 our 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.
Council's geothermal programme includes all elements of geothermal management like science, consents, compliance, community engagement and policy.
The way we manage geothermal systems is guided by policy documents. A focus for 2018-2019 is a review of existing geothermal planning provisions and the development of system management plans for the Rotorua and Tauranga geothermal systems. See our geothermal news.
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.
What is the role of Council?
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 Natural Resources 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.
The following video has more information about the role of Council in geothermal management.