Turangi is one of those rural inland towns that rely on tourism for its income. The town is world famous for its trout fishery, namely the mighty Tongariro river system, which anglers from around the world flock too in an attempt to catch the elusive rainbow and brown trout that live there year around.
Of the tourist activities available in Turangi most centre around the Tongariro River and include river rafting, fly fishing, visit to the Trout Centre, the river trail, Ruapehu mountain, or fishing on Lake Taupo. Genesis Energy also control access to the Poutu Power Station which when constructed was to be used as a tourism venture for Turangi, yet they choose not to allow visitors which could bring millions of dollars to the town.
Turangi already has the operating infrastructure available but Genesis are too pigheaded to open the dam for public viewing.
So it makes it pretty clear that this small town relies on visitors being made welcome and being able to stay there.
With plummeting Trout fishing licence sales, depleted funding for DoC and the Taupo District Council removing metal from the river, you may well wonder what’s going on.
Back in 1983 Genesis Energy in conjunction with the government diverted from surrounding rivers for the Tongariro Powers scheme.
The Tongariro Power Scheme can be divided into four key sections the Eastern Diversion, Western Diversion, Tongariro Section and Rotoaira Section.
The Eastern Diversion extends from the Wahianoa Aqueduct on the southern flanks of Mt Ruapehu, eastward to the Moawhango Dam and north to the discharge point of the Moawhango Tunnel at the Rangipo Dam on the Tongariro River. This is where the flood problem appears to occur as excess water during floods is diverted into the Tongariro River.
Lake Moawhango has a normal operating range of approximately 15.2 metres and as such rarely spills except during the largest floods.
Water is taken from Lake Moawhango to the upper Tongariro River by a 19.2km tunnel. The tunnel flow is regulated by a discharge valve at the downstream end of the tunnel where it discharges into the Tongariro River, at Rangipo Dam with no regard for river users.
The Rangipo Tailrace Tunnel discharges water from the Rangipo Power Station after electricity generation, through a 3 km tunnel to the Tongariro River, immediately upstream of the Poutu intake.
Back in the 1960’s and 70’s when the river became swollen and flooded due to excess rain in the hills behind Turangi there appeared to be plenty of warning to anglers, however it seems that that is not the case today.
Recent rainfalls have seen huge volumes of water racing down the river almost catching anglers unaware of the danger.
Dedicated websites which indicated likely water flows and weather forecasts were confusing and difficult for a layman to understand, yet Genesis in spite of regular and frequent complaints have done nothing to appease the situation.
When you consider the millions generated from the power scheme they put little to nothing back into this fledgling community as it struggles to survive with all the negative fishing issues promulgated in main stream media.
Most anglers we have spoken to point the finger directly at Genesis and blame them one hundred per cent, for ruining many fishing trips as they are to blame for holding vast litres of water and letting this go during weekends fishing.
Genesis of course denies this and says they have no control over river flows, but is this really the truth. They say every time it rains heavily the rivers naturally raise causing floods. But the truth is that it is the extra water coming from all the other surrounding rivers which create this ‘natural event’.
There have been many other occasions where the Waipakahi and Tongariro catchments have seen large rainfall over a period of a week; yet an occurrence similar to what occurred and witnessed over recent weekends hasn’t happened on these occasions to the extent of endangering lives.
Genesis Energy state that they have ‘limited ability’ to control or affect flood flows on the Tongariro River. Note the word ‘limited’.
The Poutu Intake (which takes water from the Tongariro River and transports it to Lake Rotoaira via Poutu Canal), has a maximum consented water take of 80 m3/s, and can typically only take 65-70 m3/s. When flows in the Tongariro River (at Poutu Intake) reach 160 m3/s, Genesis Energy is required to close the Poutu Intake. This prevents the transport of Tongariro River sediment to Lake Rotoaira and is a resource consent requirement.
Is it also because of the extra water coming from the Moawhango Dam and other surrounding rovers?
The interests of river users should be placed ahead of $$$.
A very successful underground power station tourism precedent is at Manapouri in the remotest southern location in the South Island.
A response from Manapouri confirmed Turangi’s lost tourist opportunity, i.e.: during the Manapouri summer season covering a six-seven month period in a much more remote location they get about 50,000 tourists paying net $20 per person for the power station visit = $1 Million p.a.
The Turangi iSite could benefit with that sort of income. In addition they pay Meridian Energy $5 per head = $250,000 p.a. An extra cost to tourists includes a boat trip across Lake Manapouri at $75/head.
Comparatively, conservatively, the Genesis Underground experience should attract over 100,000 visitors p.a. as it is open all year and has easy access from Turangi, just off SH1 about 25 km from Turangi, then factor in the additional nearby scenic opportunities including the Poutu Dam and the Pillars of Hercules on the upper Tongariro River. So at Rangipo the potential would be even greater, with a potential income of $500,000.
Another similar successful underground power station precedent is in the Snowy Mountains in Aussie.
Their hydro power scheme took 25 years to build and employed 100,000 to build nine power stations and provided irrigation via 16 dams. At the Tumut No 2 location they have underground tourist tours and audio visual displays.
Local Turangi-Tongariro and Taupo regional tourism is really neglecting a ‘unique’ opportunity. This is the only underground power station in the North Island. As seen in the photos, everything is ready to go, except Genesis.
They continue to procrastinate and just cannot be bothered… We are advised by locals who worked on the original power scheme that the construction time was extended to provide for the road in to be sealed and a toilet installed to cater for tourists…"
Ed: We contacted Genesis Energy who declined to comment.
Sales Manager: Graham Carter P: 07 8551833 M: 021 02600437 E:
W: www.fishingoutdoors.org P.O. Box 10580, Te Rapa, Hamilton 3240 Facebook