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Geothermal wonderland in better health

MEDIA RELEASE

Geothermal wonderland in better health

For immediate release: Thursday 3 February 2005

Rotorua appears secure in its future as a geothermal wonderland.

Scientists have just completed a three-part geochemical study into the health of the area’s geothermal field – and it’s looking pretty good.

Environment Bay of Plenty commissioned the study to chemically assess the system’s improvement from a state of decline 20 years ago. Completed by the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, the third and final part pulled together all previous data while focusing on the relationship between the shallow aquifers that supply surface features. The regional council’s regulation and monitoring committee meeting received the report on Tuesday.

It concluded that, overall, the geothermal field is much healthier. More deep fluid is now reaching the surface, creating hot alkaline pools – rather than mud and acidic pools - and boosting geyser activity. This is most apparent at Kuirau Park, near the city centre. However Whakarewarewa, a major tourist attraction, appears to be supplied by an offshoot rather than the main primary up-flow, which may be why some features have recovered when others have not.

Robin Ford, the committee’s deputy chairman, says the results show that Environment Bay of Plenty has managed the resource well over the last five years. It does this through the Rotorua Geothermal Management Plan, which is up for review in June. The plan’s key objectives are to reverse degradation in the geothermal reservoir and to ensure the continuing recovery of the springs and geysers, he says. “And it is certainly doing that.”

In 1980, after a noticeable decline in thermal activity, the Government funded an investigation into bore use around Rotorua. It showed a large amount of waste and inefficient use of the area’s geothermal resources.

In 1986, in spite of some public protest, the Government of the day shut down 106 geothermal bores within a 1.5km radius of Pohutu Geyser, in Whakarewarewa. It also licensed and restricted the use of bores outside that zone.

ENDS

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