03 September 2019

Preserving the taonga that is the Rotorua ngāwha (geothermal) resource is one of the objectives of a review of the Rotorua Geothermal Regional Plan. The review is in its early stages, with the local community set to have a number of opportunities to provide input to the updated management plan.

Led by Bay of Plenty Regional Council, the review is focused on making sure there is a balance between the current use and future development of geothermal, to ensure the long-term sustainability of the ngāwha and ongoing benefits for the community.

The Regional Plan sets out the rules for the use of the ngāwha resource, including policies, resource allocation and considerations for resource consents.

The review takes into account the latest scientific research and monitoring, along with input from key stakeholders such as commercial and domestic users, Māori and the wider community.

Regional Council General Manager Science and Strategy, Namouta Poutasi says it’s imperative that all voices are heard and she wants people from across the Rotorua community to provide input.

“We need to manage the Rotorua geothermal taonga carefully, so we don’t see a repeat of past mistakes and that we can ensure it can be preserved for future generations to enjoy from a social, cultural and economic point of view,” says Ms Poutasi.

After several decades of unlimited geothermal extraction stemming from the 1950s, many of Rotorua’s natural geothermal features – such as the activity in Kuirau Park and the geysers in Whakarewarewa Valley – had begun to significantly decline by the 1980s.

As a result, in the mid-late 1980s, the Government imposed the compulsory closure of many bores, instigated a resource consent regime, required reinjection of fluid and established an extraction exclusion zone within 1.5km of the Whakarewarewa geysers.

This management approach was carried over into the Rotorua Geothermal Regional Plan in 1999.

“Research and monitoring indicates that there has been huge progress in the recovery of the field since management of the system changed in the 1980s. In that time we have seen a lift in the geothermal water level below the ground, the recovery of many (but not all) surface features, and ongoing changes in features such as Papakura Geyser at Te Puia.

“However, we need to take stock of where things are at and whether the management approach and supporting plan is what the community wants for the future. We also need to continue to manage the ngāwha extremely carefully, in order to ensure we protect and preserve it for the future – while also supporting Rotorua’s growth and development.”

As part of the review, the Regional Council has identified six key issues for the future management of the ngāwha resource, along with a number of possible objectives and options designed to address these issues.

Some options include filling information gaps in some areas, improved efficiency, protecting surface features as a priority and the use of mātauranga Māori to help further guide, understand and manage the ngāwha.

The Regional Council is holding a number of hui and stakeholder workshops in September to gain input from key stakeholders and the wider public. There will also be other opportunities to provide input as the plan is developed.

An issues and options discussion document, along with a feedback form and a science summary are all available in our geothermal section.

There are also two public information drop in sessions, hosted by Regional Council staff, at the Regional Council’s Arawa Street office on Monday, 9 September. Members of the public can drop in any time between 10am and 1pm, or 3pm and 6pm.