Management of geothermal systems
How are the systems managed?
Bay of Plenty Regional Council is responsible for managing the sustainable use of the geothermal resource in the region, including:
- the development of policy to guide use of the resource
- allocation through resource consents
- monitoring and research to measure the state of the resource.
The various geothermal systems in the region have been classified into management groups which reflect their unique values and current uses. The way in which these characteristics are considered in the classification process is set out in the Regional Policy Statement.
The purpose of the classification is to manage the region’s geothermal resource sustainably by establishing different management purposes for different systems e.g. the extractive use of the resource is confined to some geothermal systems, while other systems are protected for their intrinsic values.
The six management groups are:
Group 1 – Protected Systems e.g. Waimangu-Rotomahana-Tarawera
Group 2 – Rotorua System
Group 3 – Conditional development systems e.g. Rotomā-Tikorangi
Group 4 – Development systems e.g. Kawerau
Group 5 – Low temperature systems e.g. Tauranga
Group 6 – Research systems
The challenge today is to manage the resource to support the intrinsic and traditional cultural values while providing for the use of the energy resource. Council endeavours to do this by taking a region-wide approach to the geothermal systems in the Bay of Plenty, providing for different values at a regional level rather than trying to provide for all values within each system.
In the Bay of Plenty, allocation decisions must take account of potential use of the resource by several users within the same system, and take account of potential effects on the system’s geothermal features.
Assessing the likely capacity of a geothermal system requires both monitoring of the system and modelling its likely response. Allocation of the resource to maximise its use requires a holistic understanding of the allocation parameters and impacts of all users.
Without robust information, a conservative management regime may be required to avoid potential adverse effects.
Because geothermal surface features are so fragile, land use around surface features is carefully managed by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
Along with potential damage to surface features, any work near surface features will also need to consider issues like health (some natural gases can be harmful at high levels) and site stability. Geothermal sites are notoriously dynamic and can change very quickly.
If you wish to undertake any activity, such as building works or earthworks, near a surface feature in the Rotorua district you may require resource consent from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and/or Rotorua Lakes Council. In the Kawerau and Whakatāne districts, refer to the relevant district plan.
Resource consent is required to construct a new bore. A separate resource consent is then required to take fluid or energy from any geothermal system under our Regional Water and Land Plan. In some cases other regional plans and the Regional Policy Statement may be relevant. In Rotorua, the Rotorua Geothermal Regional Plan will apply. Please contact our Consents Team if you would like to discuss this further.
Many iwi and hapū hold a statutory acknowledgement over geothermal resources in parts of the region. A Statutory Acknowledgement is a formal acknowledgement by the Crown that recognises the particular cultural, spiritual, historical and traditional association of iwi with a site of significance or resource identified as a statutory area. The statutory areas include Crown land, geographic features, lakes, rivers, wetlands and coastal marine areas. Check out the Statutory Acknowledgements webpage for more information.
Kuirau Park Hydrothermal eruption in 1980s, Rotorua
Image: © GNS Science