Lake Ōkareka

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Lake Ōkāreka
Lake Ōkāreka
Lake Ōkāreka
Location of Lake Ōkāreka
Location of Lake Ōkāreka
Lake Ōkāreka
LocationRotorua Lakes, Bay of Plenty Region, North Island
Coordinates38°10′S 176°22′E / 38.167°S 176.367°E / -38.167; 176.367Coordinates: 38°10′S 176°22′E / 38.167°S 176.367°E / -38.167; 176.367
TypeCrater Lake
Primary outflowsWaitangi Springs
Catchment area19.8 km2 (7.6 sq mi)[1]
Basin countriesNew Zealand
Max. length2.8 km (1.7 mi)[1]
Max. width1.9 km (1.2 mi)[1]
Surface area3.4 km2 (1.3 sq mi)[1]
Average depth20.0 m (65.6 ft)[1]
Max. depth34 m (112 ft)[1]
Surface elevation355 m (1,165 ft)[1]
SettlementsLake Ōkāreka

Lake Ōkāreka is one of four small lakes lying between Lake Rotorua and Lake Tarawera, in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand's North Island. The others are Lake Rotokakahi (Green Lake), Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake), and Lake Okataina. All lie within the Okataina caldera, along its western edge.


Lake Ōkāreka from DoC campsite

The lake has a circumference of 6 miles (9.7 km) and lies about 60 metres (200 ft) above Lake Tarawera. Its outlet flows underground for half a mile and forms the Waitangi waterfall. In fact, the Ōkāreka lake seems to be connected with Tarawera by underground channels.[2]


This small and little-visited lake is surrounded by hills nearly everywhere, and is a heavy hunting area. It is quite near, but out of sight from the tourist motor route of Rotorua and Tarawera. A side road, Tarawera Road, gives access to it. During the late 19th century, settlers acquired some of the land around it, and built houses on Ōkāreka. Some of the frontage is still in private hands, but the greater part of the basin in which the lake lies has now become residential property.

Ōkāreka means "the lake of sweet food".[3] It was first described in print by Sir George Grey, who visited it on the course of his travels through Rotorua to Taupo in 1849-1850. The route from Ohinemutu to Tarawera was a track which skirted the shore of Ōkāreka and reached the large lake, near the mission station called Galilei. Grey's journal reads:

"We reached the beautiful lake of Okareka, just at a place where there is a spring of deliciously cool water, wherewith we all refreshed ourselves and then proceeded to cross the lake in canoes. The lake is really an extremely pretty sight, the shores being lofty and wooded, with the exception of a valley at each end, where the roads run. A peninsula, on which stands the pa called Taumaihi, juts out into the centre of the lake. The waters are beautifully clear, and very deep. There is no apparent outlet to this lake. Its vent consists of an underground stream, which is hidden for about half a mile, and then makes its appearance, looking like a fountain, gushing through a heap of rocks and square stones of a basaltic formation, whence it makes its way in a small stream to Tarawera, the level of which is about sixty feet lower than that of Okareka, and into which the water falls down a declivity of twenty feet, forming a beautiful cascade, surrounded and overshadowed by a clump of karaka and other evergreen trees."

Grey is also presumed to have introduced Dama Wallaby to the area around Ōkāreka, where they presently still pose a problem.[4]

The shores of Ōkāreka were a scene of Māori life. Cultivations along the lake were common, and Māori fished the waters for whitebait, koura crayfish and toitoi, which were common species in Lake Ōkāreka before Brown trout was introduced. In the 1860s, Alfred Domett visited Ōkāreka and Tarawera, following a similar path to the one that Grey took.

Known for its natural environment, this lake has an adjacent settlement of approximately 600 people. The lake is accessible from the tourist location of Rotorua. The forest nearby to Lake Ōkāreka extends to the western side of Lake Okataina and the Whakapoungakau Range.


Lake Ōkāreka has reasonably clear, clean water and is used extensively for recreation such as boating, swimming and fishing. However, the quality of the water has been declining over recent years due to excess levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. These nutrients come from surrounding farmland, residential septic tanks and from the release of existing and accumulated nutrients from sediments on the lake bed.

The Lake Ōkāreka Catchment Management Plan was developed in 2004. This is a long-term plan to improve the water quality of the lake, through changes like sewage reticulation, in-lake chemical treatment and farm nutrient management. It has been calculated that the load nutrients needed to reach the target TLI of 3.0 are 2.5 tonnes per year of nitrogen and 0.08 tonnes per year of phosphorus.

The Trophic Level Index (TLI) is an overall indication of lake health based on a number of different criteria, values represent a three-yearly average. Better quality sites have a lower TLI. The three-yearly average for Ōkāreka indicates little change over the last five years.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Lowe, D.J., Green, J.D. (1987). Viner, A.B. (ed.). Inland waters of New Zealand. Wellington: DSIR Science Information Publishing Centre. pp. 471–474. ISBN 0-477-06799-9.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Ferdinand von Hochstetter, Edward Sauter (2010). New Zealand: its physical geography, geology and natural history, Kessinger Publishing, p. 406. ISBN 1-167-02635-7
  3. ^ "1000 Māori place names". New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 6 August 2019.
  4. ^ "Mountain poison drop targets pest wallabies". NZ Herald. Retrieved 9 September 2021.

External links[edit]