Submerged jetties, flooded boat sheds and "unwalkable" walkways are sights all too familiar for locals living near Lake Okareka.

The current lake level is the highest recorded since the 1960s, an event triggered by the storms in April.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council installed a pump earlier this month to increase water flow going out of the lake, additional to the existing pipeline that runs to Lake Tarawera.

But water levels have remained high and the heavy downpour this week has only aggravated the situation.


"The water level hasn't really gone down since April, then this week has just tipped it over the edge. God is putting in more than we can take out," local man Martin Green said.

Mr Green has lived at Lake Okareka for the last two years, having returned after living there in the 1980s.

"I've never seen the lake like this. It is a bit of a worry, there's water sitting everywhere.

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Lake Okareka residents on high alert as lake level rises

"We can't fish because we can't launch our boat - the jetty is gone completely. Obviously that's not the most pressing issue, but it is a side effect of what has happened.

"What's more of a worry is the springs that have come up under people's houses. There's been so much rain and the run-off that goes straight into the lake is huge.

Mr Green said he had contacted the council about the issue, because it "needs to be sorted long-term".

"The pump they installed a couple of weeks ago is not taking out enough, and the pipe that drains Okareka into Lake Tarawera is tiny.

"The whole situation is a real concern."

Geoff Palmer, who has lived at Lake Okareka for 26 years, said the rain, coupled with insufficient drainage, had caused a lot of inconveniences.

"It certainly has never been this high since we've lived here. I can't get near my boat shed because it's partially submerged. The top of my boat is floating level with the roof of my boat shed.

"I have my own jetty as well which is completely submerged - most jetties are.

"In the 1960s provisions were made to lower the water level but unfortunately those provisions have not been sufficient for the high quantity of rain we've had.

"My concern is we are coming into the warmer months but the new walkway connecting the two campsites is totally unwalkable.

"The pump appears to be having no impact, but we have to stay positive and make the most of what we've got."

Bay of Plenty Regional Council lakes operations manager Andy Bruere said staff, with local councillors Lyall Thurston and Kevin Winters, met with the Lake Okareka Community Association last month to "explore options to manage the water levels".

"The existing pipeline was decreasing lake levels by about 3mm per day at its consented maximum.

"Due to the unprecedented rainfall in February to May, the regional council opened the valve to the pipeline to its maximum design capacity under emergency works on June 23 which increased the flow rate and decreased lake levels by about 5mm per day.

"After consulting with directly affected downstream properties, the regional council installed a temporary pipeline to run alongside the already existing pipeline to increase the flow rate."

The pump began operating on August 4, reducing lake levels by up to 10mm per day.

"Without the emergency actions of opening the valve to its maximum design capacity and operating the pump for the temporary pipeline, the lake level would have been about 180mm higher than what we currently have."

Mr Bruere said a resource consent for the emergency works to increase the discharge limit and temporary pipeline had been lodged.

The beach that usually surrounds Tikitapu (Blue Lake) has been swallowed by water. Photo/Stephen Parker
The beach that usually surrounds Tikitapu (Blue Lake) has been swallowed by water. Photo/Stephen Parker

Meanwhile, Tikitapu (Blue Lake) has had its entire beach swallowed by water.

Blue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park owner Sheryl Murray said the lake level had become "silly high".

"After all the rain in April it was good because the lake was full, having been quite low over summer, but now it's too full. It's silly.

"We really need some sun between now and summer to bring it back down to a normal level. Otherwise I don't know where all the people are going to go."

Ms Murray said part of the loop walkway, on the lefthand side, was underwater, with walkers needing to use the roadside path.

A Rotorua Lakes Council spokeswoman said they were aware the lower track around Tikitapu was under water.

Signs would be going up advising people the lower track was closed and directing them to use the roadside walkway which goes all the way to the carpark between the two lakes.