It might have been given the moniker Lake Nukuhau — but it's no laughing matter to Gavin Whiterod.

The Levin man, who owns a section in Noble St, Taupō, that he intended to build on and retire to, has had a swamp growing in front of it for the last decade.

Mr Whiterod blames excessive stormwater runoff caused by the rapid growth of Nukuhau for the swamp, a small part of which is on his property, but mostly on the property in front, which is owned by a Maori trust with multiple owners.

The Whiterods’ section at Noble St with vacant land in front, cleared and mown, pictured around 2005.
The Whiterods’ section at Noble St with vacant land in front, cleared and mown, pictured around 2005.

He says he has made repeated approaches to the Taupō District Council over the years, but staff did not want to know.

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Over the summer, however, a combination of wet weather and high lake levels meant the swamp grew to its largest size yet. Pukeko and ducks took up residence, some wag installed a dinghy with a fishing mannequin and a 'Lake Nukuhau' sign, and it proved an irresistible attraction to children, one of whom had to be rescued by a neighbour after her gumboots became stuck in the mud.

Now council chief executive Gareth Green says although the council isn't responsible for the swamp, it is happy to approach the landowners for permission to put in a pipe to drain the water as it is both a safety hazard and a health hazard.

However, he says the water in the swamp has been tested and although there is some stormwater in it, which was expected given the low-lying nature of the land, there was no treated water from the town's water supply.

Mr Green says as long back as he can remember the area along Rauhoto St facing the Waikato River has always been a wetland.

The level of the water table fluctuates according to the level of Lake Taupo and the presence of several springs in the area which also vary in flow.

When Mr Whiterod and his wife bought their section the area was relatively dry and with the permission of the landowners in front they cleared the weeds, grassed the area and kept it mowed — "it looked like a bowling green", Mr Whiterod says.

That was in the early 2000s. About 2005 or 2006 water began pooling on the section in front. Mr Whiterod says it was stormwater and points to the manholes at the bottom of Morison St blowing off after heavy rain as evidence that the stormwater system is unable to cope after years of new developments in Nukuhau.

Mr Green of the Taupō District Council says it's likely the spring on the front section began flowing again and flooding it. Whatever the reason, the swamp grew and at its peak in February this year the level was nearly a metre higher than the level of Lake Taupō. Two weeks ago it mysteriously began to shrink again.

Mr Whiterod says he's frustrated and angry and even spent $4000 on a lawyer who approached the council, only to be told they had no responsibility.

Mr Green says it's correct that the council is not responsible. He says network testing has shown there are no leaks in the municipal water system, although the question of the manhole covers blowing still has to be investigated. However, he says the council is prepared to look at a solution if the owners of the front section are agreeable.

"What we're proposing is essentially to put a pipe through from the low point which will drain into the council stormwater system and from there into the river ... it won't drain the whole pond but should make a significant difference ... it'll definitely reduce the swamp and in dry times it might reduce down to nothing, but in the middle of wet events that coincide with high lake levels it will always be there."

The proposed solution would cost around $15,000 plus administration costs and Mr Green says while the council has no legal obligation to help, it is the correct action in the circumstances.

"There's a relatively easy solution there — it does require landowner approval but it is the right thing to do."

Mr Whiterod says he's so frustrated that he's holding out no real hope of a resolution and has almost given up on his dream of building, even if the swamp disappears. While he hopes the idea of a drain pipe will work, he's not holding out much hope.

"I'll believe it when I see it."