Where once you could drive a Rolls Royce along the sandy beach surrounding Lake Rerewhakaaitu there is just water, says a local fisherman.

The lake levels are as high as Larry Ware has ever seen them.

"I've lived here for most of my life and I don't recall them ever being that high."

Ware, the former president and vice-president of the Rotorua Anglers Association, said the lake levels changed the dynamic of the trout and the way you have to fish.


As lake levels fluctuate, Rotorua Lakes Council has had to defer one jetty and boat ramp renewal on Lake Ōkareka but is looking at new possibilities.

Sport and recreation manager Rob Pitkethley said the council had commissioned Shearwater Consulting Limited to look at the suitability of a floating jetty at Lake Rotoma.

"Floating jetties are able to move with changes in water levels meaning they are usable even when the levels are high."

Pitkethley said Rotoma was the focus of the feasibility study because lake levels could vary by up to 5m.

Initial testing on the lake would take about a month and would give the council a test case to see if a similar structure could be used at other lakes in Rotorua.

"Council will consult the local communities and lake users once the study is complete to understand what future structure options would be suitable in each area."

A member of the Rotorua Anglers Association on a recent fishing trip. Photo / Larry Ware
A member of the Rotorua Anglers Association on a recent fishing trip. Photo / Larry Ware

Pitkethley said the council was also looking at a pontoon and improvements to infrastructure such as parking at the site.

Rotorua Anglers Association president Gavin Corbett said lake levels regularly fluctuated but fishing was as good as ever.


"It is indisputable that the current level is very high but this is a result of an unusually high rainfall and ground saturation.

"The angler must learn to adapt to the new conditions. In many cases the angler will be fishing waist deep in water where previously it had been dry land."

Corbett said some popular fishing hot spots were now out of reach because of lake levels.

Ware said anglers were being forced to fish in different spots but high lake levels also meant more food for the fish as worms and ground insects drowned.

"I've been fishing at Rerewhakaaitu since the 90s and I've never seen it up over the trees like it is in all that time."

Bay of Plenty Regional Council's lakes operations manager, Andy Bruere, said a working party, including local iwi and the Lake Ōkareka and Tarawera communities, had been established to explore options for changing the current resource consent conditions for lake level management.

What the group discusses will inform the preparation of a resource consent application to change the current lake level management regime to better cope with increases in average rainfall.

"Lake levels naturally fluctuate and people's use of the surrounding land can be affected when those fluctuations exceed historic norms," Bruere said.

"Unusually high levels of rainfall since April 2017 have tested the ability of the main outlet system to keep the lake level within its target range."

The main outlet pipe from Lake Ōkareka was first installed in the 1960s but upgraded to a larger pipe a few years ago. Last year the regional council installed a second temporary pipe and pump to bring lake levels back to the consented target operating range.

In the 2018-2028 Long-Term Plan Rotorua Lakes Council set aside more than $2 million to enhance lakes infrastructure.