Low lake levels spark action

The lack of rain in the Bay of Plenty over the past few months means the Rotorua lake levels are low and further operational measures are being taken.

Residents in the lakes area, particularly around Lake Rotoiti, have expressed concern over falling lake levels. Lake Rotoiti is 50mm below its preferred minimum level while other district lakes are also very low. 

Bay of Plenty Regional Council is responding by operating the Okere Gates close to minimum settings between 4pm-10am each day to maintain lake levels. 

This means commercial activity on the Kaituna River will only be permitted from 10am-4pm, as river flows are increased slightly to facilitate those activities. Bay of Plenty Regional Council Principal Engineering Surveyor Graeme O’Rourke says these measures will be reassessed if conditions do not improve.

The Okere Gates have been on minimum-to-low rafting settings since last October in a proactive effort to hold lake levels within the ‘main operating range’, while balancing out-flows through the Okere Gates. 

Under the current consent, water quality is the priority ‘lake level management’ driver, as greater out-flows than in-flows through the Okere Gates must be maintained. However this may result in lower lake levels during times of no rainfall, as currently experienced.

Lake levels recovered slightly following several days of rain during December, but not enough to prevent current low lake levels.

“Until we get significant rain the lake levels will remain low,” Graeme says. “The good news is that there is some prospect of rain this week, so hopefully a recovery is in sight.”

In the meantime the situation continues to be monitored closely and updates will be issued as required.