Regional Council Approves Care Plan For The Protection Of Geothermal In Rotorua

Published: Fri 19 Apr 2024 08:34 AM
Toi Moana Bay of Plenty Regional Council has approved a care plan to support the sustainable management of geothermal in Rotorua city.
The Rotorua Geothermal System Management Plan Ngā Wai Ariki o Rotorua He Mahere Whakahaere Pūnaha is a Regional Council policy that will guide the overall management of the Rotorua Geothermal System.
It will also be used to guide and inform changes to the Regional Natural Resources Plan and the Rotorua Geothermal Regional Plan later this year. These plan changes are part of a regular review process under the Resource Management Act to make clear how the geothermal (ngāwha) resources in Rotorua city are to be used.
Regional Council General Manager Strategy and Science Namouta Poutasi says geothermal is a critical part of Rotorua for its environmental, cultural, social and economic values, which is why it needs careful monitoring and management.
“Regional Council has a responsibility to ensure the sustainable use of geothermal resources in the Bay of Plenty region. This includes how much geothermal water and energy people can take, use and discharge.
“The Rotorua Geothermal System Management Plan sets a pathway for the protection of this unique system. While the science tells us the system is currently healthy, long-term data shows that it is incredibly fragile and easily influenced by use, take and climate.
“This is often reflected in the health of significant surface features, such as hot springs, mud pools and geysers. Because these are so rare and world-renowned, we need to make sure they survive and thrive for years to come.”
Ms Poutasi says through the process of developing the System Management Plan, Regional Council heard what’s important to local communities through a long, robust process.
“The completion and approval of this document is the first step towards a greater partnership with tangata whenua and local communities, and making sure we’re on the right course when it comes to how we protect this rare and precious taonga.”
The draft System Management Plan was developed over a five-year period, during which time many hui, workshops and community meetings were held. It was during this time that Te Ahi Kā Roa Rōpū was established, a haukāinga working group with representatives from Ngāpuna, Whakarewarewa, Ōhinemutu and Tarewa/Kuirau that has worked beside Regional Council on the development of the System Management Plan.
Te Ahi Kā Roa Rōpū member Sharon Porter says with the establishment and inclusion of the Ahi Kā Roa Rōpū, the System Management Plan provided “a ground-breaking opportunity to be involved in decision making about our wai ariki”.
Fellow member Tamara Mutu says that by endorsing the System Management Plan, it provides the first layer of sustainability and protection of the Rotorua Geothermal System.
“It ensures the mauri of the wai ariki, the intergenerational use for our communities, commercial businesses, and the livelihoods of many of our whānau, who rely on tourism”.
The draft System Management Plan was finalised and released for wider feedback in late 2023 through to early 2024. During this time, 26 submissions were made, with nine individuals and groups speaking to their submissions in front of a hearing panel.
Regional Council Councillor Te Taru White, who was one of the panellists alongside Councillors Lyall Thurston and Kevin Winters, says there was a high level of agreement for the overall approach of the System Management Plan and that protection of this geothermal system should be at the centre of Regional Council’s decision-making process.
“The passion that people have for Ngā Wai Ariki o Rotorua is in their hearts and minds. It is a taonga, spiritually and physically, with an undisturbed connection of use since the time of first arrival.
“I want to acknowledge the work that has been done to ensure the sustainability and resilience of this wonderful taonga, with particular thanks to Te Ahi Kā Roa Rōpū and my fellow councillors for the time and effort to see this through.”
Following the approval of the System Management Plan, Regional Council is now focused on its implementation, and the draft changes to the Regional Natural Resources Plan and the Rotorua Geothermal Regional Plan. These will be consulted on later in 2024, before a formal Plan Change notification process takes place in 2025.

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