Fumarole opens up on Lake Road, Rotorua

By Waimanea Nuri
Public Interest journalism funded through NZ On Air

A fumarole has opened up on Lake Rd, Rotorua causing disruption on the busy main road. Photo/Roihana Nuri

By Waimanea Nuri, Te Rito journalism cadet

A new hot pool has suddenly erupted today in the middle of a busy Rotorua road which has caused major disruption.

Rotorua Lakes Council’s geothermal inspector Peter Brownbridge says the cause of the fumarole is unknown at this stage and emphasises the area is not known for fumaroles and there are no previous reports of hot springs at that particular spot.

"The fumarole is not particularly large. It popped up among plantings in the middle of a traffic island but there’s a fair bit of water and mud on the road on the side going into town, so we’ve closed that off for now."

Fumaroles are openings in the earth's surface that emit steam and volcanic gases, such as sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. They can occur as holes, cracks, or fissures near active volcanoes or in areas where magma has risen into the earth's crust without erupting.

Lane closed

While it is being assessed, one lane is closed on Lake Road heading toward Rotorua Hospital.  

Rotorua local Roihana Nuri says it is not a surprise that this is happening in any part of this town but the main impact will be on whānau who travel from the eastern to western sides of Rotorua. 

“Whānau need to be prepared for delays and be aware of travel time.”

Another Rotorua resident, Te Waipounamu Hona-Paku, says, "we live in the heart of an active geothermal town and although this is scary and nonsense this can be the reality of this beautiful place I call home. 

“This is not the first time we've had a problem like this. We need to be careful and understanding of the rich history Rotorua has with geothermal activity.”

Norm Rahiri says the issue looks pretty much like a mini ngāwhā. 

“I think the hole in the ground will take a few days to fix, especially with hot water and mud everywhere.”

Mud extracted

Rahiri says it's a natural geothermal occurrence for Rotorua and residents need to be careful and aware of how often this may happen.

The council's Brownbridge says no heat or movement is being detected from the crack, so that side of the road remains open for now. Assessments are being made to understand if a crack across both lanes on the other side of the road is related to the fumarole.

“We have well drillers here now looking to quench one of the bores to see if that affects the flow of water coming out of the fumarole.”

Trucks are clearing the area by extracting mud from the exposed geyser in the ground to prevent it from getting into the nearby stream. A cesspit drain in the area has been blocked off, also to prevent mud from getting into the stream.