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Geothermal Resource

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.

Map of Geothermal Areas

Click here for high resolution version


Key links


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

Click here for high resolution version

Geo diagram 2 

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 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.

What work is the Council currently doing?

Council's geothermal programme includes all elements of geothermal management, such as science, consents, compliance, community engagement and policy.

The way we manage geothermal systems is guided by policy documents and 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 news page link below 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:

Lake at Waimangu 

Frying Pan Lake, Waimangu Geothermal Field

Image: © GNS Science