Our close proximity to the geothermal fields provides exciting opportunities for the district
Geothermal can increase our tourism through the spa and wellness segment, provide heating for the aged care and specialist living sectors and in agriculture be used in glasshouses, to name just a few possibilities.
A total of 29 geothermal areas have been identiﬁed in this area, with about half offering the potential for resource utilisation.
There is growing realisation globally of the real potential of geothermal energy. Rotorua has this natural resource in abundance, with standards, stability and monitoring in place to utilise the resource sustainably and safely.
Destination Rotorua is currently identifying the alternative uses and values of geothermal resources, and developing a strategy based on available resources, opportunities and economics for utilising geothermal in direct heat applications, for example in the spa and wellness sector, timber drying and glasshouses.
Polynesian Spa is a 100% New Zealand owned private company. For over 40 years Polynesian Spa has had a policy of continuous improvement that has seen the old government-run baths of the mid 1900s transformed into the internationally-renowned spa that it is today.
All developments have capitalised on the totally unique geothermal views from the spa overlooking Sulphur Bay on Lake Rotorua and on the sustainable use of the health-giving Rotorua geothermal waters. Chief Executive to 2015, George White, is proud of Polynesian Spa's domestic and international reputation as a world class must-do experience in Rotorua.
Polynesian Spa employs 90 staff and the organisation's focus on innovation and excellence in customer service has been recognised. Polynesian Spa has been voted one of the World's Top 10 Spa’s by Conde Nast Traveller Magazine readers in 2007, 2009 and 2011. It is also among the elite group of New Zealand tourism businesses that has achieved a Qualmark Enviro Gold Award.
Polynesian Spa attracts both locals and overseas visitors from a very broad range of countries “Rotorua will always be a key tourism destination in New Zealand due to the unique geothermal resources and cultural offerings”, says George. “It is a great place to do business and there is plenty to do in Rotorua for those who live and work here. There are many hidden gems such as the lakes, the Redwoods, plenty of walks and mountain biking tracks that make for a great lifestyle.”
Rotorua district has a national and global competitive advantage in energy resources
The development of geothermal energy for heating, electricity generation, and also integration of geothermal energy into emerging bio-fuel and bio-refinery processes, is expected to have a significant and positive impact on the Rotorua economy.
Many of the geothermal fields are protected because of the importance of surface geothermal features for tourism. However, the development of technologies that allow extraction of energy without damage to the surface or environment will create significant investment opportunity.
While Rotorua has successfully leveraged its geothermal resources for recreational and tourism purposes, there remains significant potential to build on this. Recent clinical research points to the on-going health benefits of geothermal spa therapy.
Continental European and Asian cultures, particularly the Japanese, continue to use balneotherapy (geothermal treatments) as a core part of health maintenance. Education and marketing of the associated health benefits could significantly boost local and tourist usage of geothermal spa therapies.
Local Te Arawa entities are investing in geothermal power generation in the Rotorua region. For example, Ngati Rangiteaorere has plans for the development of its geothermal field at Tikitere.
Tikitere is capable of providing an 80 megawatt power station without affecting the important tourism site of Hells Gate. It has been estimated there are potential returns of up to $200 million per annum in the Lake Taupo and Bay of Plenty areas.
Destination Rotorua is undertaking a project to evaluate opportunities for geothermal direct heat. In particular, it is critical to understand the market requirements of the industry sector and the economics of using the geothermal resource to provide direct heat.
There are 21 identified geothermal areas in the Rotorua District. Many of these geothermal areas are protected because of their tourist value, for example Whakarewarewa, Waiotapu and Waimangu. However a number have been identified as available for further development including Taheke, Tikitere, Horohoro and Ohaaki. Most of the available resources are under Iwi ownership and there are strong aspirations to sustainably utilise the resources to generate wealth and employment for current and future generations.
Historically, major industrial development has centred on geothermal power plants with downstream users making use of what is effectively “waste” heat. A well-known example is the Huka Prawn Park at Wairakei. Destination Rotorua believes there are many more opportunities to utilise our geothermal resources by identifying direct heat uses that do not rely on the need for a geothermal power plant for the base load. The diagram below shows an example of some of the sorts of opportunities that could be explored.
- Mutual, strong relationship with land owners
- Understand resource availability including economics, costs to access resources and Resource Management Act implications
- Understand market opportunities and undertake market research on identified possibilities, for example glasshouse crops
- Complete business plans on most attractive options with land owner involvement.
- Identify potential investors (locally and internationally) and facilitate investment.
Rotorua is situated in the Taupo Volcanic Zone – one of the principal locations of high temperature geothermal fields in New Zealand.
The Taupo Volcanic Zone extends from White Island, in the Bay of Plenty, southwest to Mt Ruapehu in the centre of the North Island.
A preliminary study by GNS Science showed that subsurface heat reserves in the Taupo Volcanic zone are widespread and enormous. A total of 29 geothermal areas has been identified in this zone, with about half offering the potential for resource utilisation.
The report stated that approximately 265 PJ of energy can be extracted, but only 5% of the potential energy was being utilised. The New Zealand Energy and Conservation Strategy aims to increase the direct use of geothermal energy by at least 20% by 2025.
GNS Science, New Zealand’s Crown Research Institute that leads earth, geoscience and isotope research, has a geothermal research programme that aims to foster more widespread and structured development of geothermal resources.
New Zealand’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) manages the New Zealand Energy and Conservation Strategy which aims to increase direct use of geothermal energy as a sustainable, greenhouse friendly energy. A research programme has subsequently been funded by the government, with the aim of increasing sustainable use of geothermal resources.
The new energy strategy for the Bay of Plenty, launched in December 2011 by the regional economic strategy group (Bay of Connections Governance Group) covers all aspects of energy sourcing including geothermal.
There is a call for the creation of a specialist research centre focussed on geothermal heat extraction for emerging energy technologies and applications.
To find out more contact Destination Rotorua