The Rotorua Lakes are a taonga (treasure) to the people of Te Arawa. Steeped in Māori history, the lakes are nationally significant to New Zealanders and are also a huge tourism drawcard.
The Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme is responsible for protecting and restoring water quality in 12 of the lakes in the Rotorua district: Rotorua, Rotoiti, Tarawera, Rotomā, Ōkāreka, Ōkaro, Rerewhakaaitu, Rotoehu, Rotokākahi, Ōkataina, Rotomahana and Tikitapu.
To preserve and protect the Rotorua Lakes for present and future generations, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council has partnered with the Rotorua Lakes Council and Te Arawa Lakes Trust to roll out the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme. Together, we’re working to remove 320 tonnes of nitrogen from Lake Rotorua by 2032 and restore the water quality of all Te Arawa Lakes.
To learn more about each of the lakes and our plans to achieve water quality targets, please select a lake.
Lake Rotorua is the largest lake in the district, loved by locals and tourists alike. To achieve long term sustainable water quality at Lake Rotorua, we’re trying to reduce nutrients from land use through an integrated framework of solutions.
Lake Rotoiti, the ‘small lake’, is actually a relatively large lake linked to Lake Rotorua via the Ohau Diversion wall. The long term plan is to remove the wall and allow the waters to mix again once Lake Rotorua’s water quality has improved.
Lake Tarawera is one of the largest lakes in the country and is an idyllic holiday destination for camping, walking and fishing. Unfortunately, the lake’s water quality is declining, a Restoration Plan for the lake was adopted in 2016 and is currently being implemented. However, the lake has a complicated groundwater system fed by seven other lakes, which sit above it so more work is required to understand how water quality in Tarawera is affected.
With a name that means ‘lake of exceptionally clear water,’ it’s no surprise Lake Rotomā has the best water quality of all the Rotorua lakes. To keep Rotomā beautiful and sparkling, an action plan is being implemented with a focus on sewerage reticulation.
Lake Ōkāreka is great for swimming, water-skiing, barbecues, hiking, boating and fishing. The lake’s water quality is slightly above target, and more land use change in the catchment is currently being negotiated to further improve water quality.
Lake Ōkaro is a significant taonga (treasure) to local tribes, and is the smallest of the Rotorua lakes under public management. It’s known for its quiet rural setting and is great for trout fishing and water-skiing. All actions in the lake’s current action plan have been completed.
Lake Rerewhakaaitu is a go-to spot for holidaymakers looking to kayak, boat, camp and birdwatch. With the support of the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme, local farmers have established a community group to work together on water quality issues.
Lake Rotoehu is a beautifully scenic, secluded lake known for its excellent fly fishing. Although very shallow, it’s able to hide a sunken island underneath its waters! To improve the lake’s water quality, land management changes, weed harvesting and two voluntary agreements with landowners in the catchment have been implemented.
Known as the ‘Green Lake’ due to its distinct emerald green colour, Rotokākahi is privately owned by local iwi (tribes) and is considered tapu, with no swimming, fishing or boating permitted. An action plan is currently being developed with iwi to improve the lake's water quality.
Lake Ōkataina is one of the most scenic lakes in New Zealand, with bush clad slopes, crystal blue sparkling water and gorgeous sandy beaches. Its action plan has three key areas: land use change, pest control and the investigation of native bush and the impact it has on water quality.
Lake Rotomahana was the site of the famed Pink and White Terraces (once considered the eighth natural wonder of the world) before they were destroyed in the Tarawera eruption. We’re continuing to monitor the lake’s water quality.