30 November 2023
Although the Rotorua district escaped the devastating extremes of the climatic bombshell that devastated the east coast communities earlier this year, we nevertheless took a substantial hit with some extremely high rainfall volumes. The Okawa Bay gauge recorded 600mm during January and February and a further 478mm through May resulting in a roller coaster for lake levels through to mid-July as illustrated in this chart.
Despite the Okere gates being held virtually wide open for 153 out of the 212 days to the end of July, Rotoiti exceeded the operational and consented upper levels over lengthy periods, reaching its highest level in 50 years during February. It is fortunate that the Ōkere/Kaituna river system accommodates much of the overflow, whereas our neighbouring lakes Rotoehu and Rotomā have no natural outlets and continue to suffer from extreme flood levels that have impacted badly on their local communities.
Since late July, lake levels have for the most part been managed by BoP Regional Council within the consented operational envelope despite some perceptions within our communities, i.e. between RL279.10 and 279.20 metres Moturiki datum, whilst ensuring lake outflows exceed inflows. Nonetheless, Council has been controlling the gates strategically in attempting to provide maximum opportunities for commercial rafting operations on the river as provided for in the consent. In so doing, the upper level has been breached on a couple of occasions due partly to unpredictable weather. Whilst we should support these opportunities, LRCA has reminded Council of established protocols towards prioritising water quality, mitigating potential flooding and maintaining lake recreational access.