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Papakura joins the party

Papakura Geyser, at Te Puia in Rotorua’s Te Whakarewarewa Valley, burst into life last week, shooting water up to four metres in the air.

For Immediate Release

9 September, 2015

Papakura joins the party

A once-famous geyser in Te Whakarewarewa Valley, dormant since 1979, literally burst into life last week, erupting continuously for around 36 hours and shooting water up to four metres in the air. And while the geyser has been intermittent since, the development has left both Te Puia staff and scientists excited and “estactic”.

Located at Te Puia in Rotorua, Papakura Geyser had been a consistently active geyser until its failure in 1979. In September 2013, she started showing signs of life again with bubbling water, steam and an overflow – a level of recovery that has been directly attributed to Rotorua’s bore closure programme of the late 1980s.

It is believed that the level of recovery seen last week with Papakura’s eruptions signifies a world first in terms of reversing the damage caused by exploitation of a geothermal field. This has been achived through a management regime, designed to balance use with preservation of the rare geothermal features.

Te Puia Chief Executive Officer, Tim Cossar, says Papakura has continued to “bubble away” for the past 18 months, however, she entered an exciting new phase of activity late late last week.

“This has been a hugely exciting development for Te Whakarewarewa Valley, our manuhiri (visitors) and our people – many of whom are the latest of several generations to live and work here.

“We keep a close eye on our various geothermal features to monitor any changes, and to see her suddenly start erupting was extremely exciting. We don’t know when she will start again or how long she will continue to perform for us, but it was certainly fantastic to see it.

“Visitors have been drawn to the geothermal features of the Valley, and the hospitality of our people, for almost 200 years and it is an attraction that is as important today as it was then. These recent developments add a new layer to this offering – and it’s right here in our back yard.”

GNS Volcano Information Specialist, Brad Scott, says he is simply ecstatic about Papakura entering a new phase of recovery.

“It is early days in our scientific investigation of these developments, but the geyser has clearly entered phase two of its recovery. In the first phase, which started 18 months ago, she attained a level of overflow and started regaining some heat, but it was not hot enough to prompt an eruption.

“Over the past 18 months she has obviously pumped out the cold water and started hitting temperatures that allow for an eruption. We will be collecting water samples to confirm any changes in the water to support these observations."

Mr Scott says Papakura has had average temperatures around mid-90 degrees Celsius over the past 18 months, but an initial reading on Thursday 3 September was recorded at 100.9 degrees Celsius, a significant increase.

He says it is too early to say whether the geyser will continue erupting, but last week’s developments further reinforce that the field’s management plan and the bore closure programme have been successful in helping the surface features recover.

“Over the weekend we observed two styles of activity in the geyser; vigorous boiling with overflows, as well as eruptions.

“The surface features (geysers and hot springs) of the Rotorua geothermal field had been significantly damaged due to over-exploitation of the resource via the bores, resulting in the decrease and failure of many surface features in both Te Whakarewarewa Valley and Kuirau Park. The bore closure programme sought to reduce the impact on the field, in order to promote a level of sustainable recovery down the track.

“The revitalisation of Papakura is a clear indication that these efforts have been successful, and Rotorua is the only geothermal field in the world that has been managed in such a way. We have seen a reversal in the level of its geothermal activity as a result.

“Papakura is not yet erupting as strongly as she was in the 1970 and 80s, but it’s a great start.”

Mr Cossar says Papakura’s recent spark of significant activity occurred on the day the visitor attraction officially launched its new brands – a coincidence of timing that did not go unnoticed.

“Our brand launch has been about clearly defining the two legacies of our operation – tourism and culture – and it has been a process that has reinforced our relevance and responsibilities under the legislation that governs us.

“Under this legislation, we are not only mandated to maintain and preserve traditional Māori art forms, but we also have a clear responsibility to ensure the sustainability of our remarkable geothermal landscape and the natural environment that exists here in the Valley.”

Mr Cossar says that it is extremely rewarding for everyone involved to see that the measures taken 30 years ago are paying off, with some of these important natural features coming back to life.

Papakura Geyser and its activity can be clearly and safely seen from existing visitor pathways and viewing areas.


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