It was business as usual for most Taupō tourism operators today, with school holiday visitors expected and the town's main winter event Taupō Winter Festival kicking off.

That follows a spill of around 800,000 litres of wastewater into the lake on Tuesday afternoon after a water main broke, scouring away part of the bank and in turn causing a concrete footpath to collapse onto a wastewater pipe, which burst.

Some of the tourist businesses which operate on the Waikato River including HukaFalls Jet and Rapids Jet temporarily ceased operation on Tuesday and did not run yesterday due to rain. They are expected to resume operations until the water has been tested and the results are clear.

However Huka Falls River Cruises operator Dave Kilmister ran his usual morning trip from Aratiatia Dam to Huka Falls on Wednesday and said while he was expecting to see some discolouration in the river, he was surprised to notice it was remarkably clear.


"There was no visible sign of waste water anywhere on our 7km [journey]. It all seemed okay," he said.

Huka Falls River Cruise at the base of Huka Falls.
Huka Falls River Cruise at the base of Huka Falls.

He added that his cruises were able to continue because the passengers do not have any contact with the water and there is no spray created.

On Lake Taupō , tourism operations such as cruises to the Modern Māori Carvings were running as normal, said Destination Great Lake Taupo general manager Jane Wilson.

She added that for tourism businesses that were not directly impacted, it was "business as usual" and Destination Great Lake Taupō would continue to promote Taupō as a winter holiday destination.

"The region offers a huge cross section of experiences that visitors can still experience beyond the lake and river, and we very much remain open for business."

The district is expecting an influx of visitors and holiday home owners over the upcoming school holidays and the popular Malcolm Flowers Insurances Taupō Winter Festival also kicks off tonight. Festival director Nicola Carter says all 32 of the festival events will be going ahead as planned.

Taupō Winter Festival begins tonight.
Taupō Winter Festival begins tonight.

The Taupō CBD, including cafes, bars and restaurants, remain open for business with some minor water restrictions in place.

The Conservation Department's DOC Taupō Fishery Management Team is recommending anglers take a precautionary approach to fishing in the northern part of Tapuaeharuru Bay near Taupō Township, boat harbour and the Waikato River downstream of the control gates and avoid contact with any water which could potentially be contaminated.


The Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board has placed a rāhui on Tapuaeharuru Bay and the upper Waikato River to Aratiatia to allow the area to rest and recover.

The board urged the community to respect the rāhui and to not gather any food (trout, kōura, watercress) from those areas.

No other restrictions are in place for lake users. However people are being warned to stay out of the lake around the affected area after early water sampling results from the site of the wastewater spill showed elevated e.coli levels.

Taupō District Council chief executive Gareth Green says preliminary results show "highly-elevated" e.coli readings in the area underneath the pipe break and towards the Waikato River mouth.

Wastewater being pumped from a broken pipe at Taupo.
Wastewater being pumped from a broken pipe at Taupo.

Water sampling is being undertaken twice a day at present and take 24 hours to process.
As well as water sampling at the spill site, the council is also monitoring the water at 22 sites on the lake and Waikato River and Mr Green said it will continue to do so until it is certain the water is safe.

Schools remain open and businesses are also open as usual, and Mr Green said the advice to businesses was the same as it was to residents, which is to minimise water use.

Taupō traditionally receives an influx of visitors over the school holidays and Mr Green said people need not put off their trip to the town because of the water issue as the system would be able to cope with normal visitor numbers for this time of year.

Motel and hotel operators spoken to said guests who were staying with them had been advised of the need to conserve water and most were understanding and cooperative.

However one motelier said he had had one cancellation already, and another would-be guest was waiting to see how things developed over the weekend before confirming her booking.