Good news for Lake Ōkāreka residents: Bay of Plenty Regional Council has invoked emergency measures to ease problems caused by high lake levels.
These emergency measures involve increasing outflow from Lake Ōkāreka above the consented maximum flow, to prevent flooding as a result of high lake levels. If necessary this regime will remain in place until the lake level is brought under control. A variation to the resource consent may need to be sought to authorise this activity, depending on its duration, and it may be appropriate to seek a more permanent change to the resource consent so this situation can be addressed more easily in the future.
Lake levels on Ōkāreka are extremely high, with the outlet for the lake at maximum flow since March, and this has been causing issues for residents and other users. Groundwater aquifers are fully charged, catchments are saturated and there is so much water that new springs have been popping up throughout the lakes district.
The Lake Okareka outflow to Waitangi Stream is controlled through a gravity pipeline managed by the Regional Council. The existing maximum flow from Lake Okareka to the Waitangi Stream was set following consultation with the community and considered erosion, water quality and ecological issues (such as fish passage).
These emergency measures have been invoked under Section S330 of the Resource Management Act. The higher flows will be monitored and measured and will assist in a potential review of the existing consent.
The regional council is also modelling the capacity of lake structures, particularly in light of impact of climate change and changes and improvements that will feed into the Asset Management Plan.