Lake Rotoehu

PHOTO: The level of Lake Rotoehu has risen to a point where lakeside homes, including the Blairs’, are being flooded. (Source: Local Democracy Reporting)

She is among those in the small lakeside community near Rotorua with water lapping at her doorstep.

She and husband John’s Kennedy Bay holiday home was meant to be their retirement paradise but in the year since they bought it, the lake has risen two metres to a near-record high, and the home has been surrounded.

The Tauranga couple paid $30,000 to raise the piles last week in a last-ditch attempt to save the house. It worked in keeping the interior dry but they believed the house was not yet liveable with the lake still so high.

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The threat of the water rising further weighed heavily on their minds with the likelihood of more rain over winter. And while neighbouring Lake Rotomā had not reached the point of overflow, water had seeped into Rotoehu, filling it further.

When they bought the property in March last year, they saw no red flags, Blair said; the LIM report showed no issues, and as far as she was aware there was no history of flooding.

Now, she was terrified and said she worried that with changing weather patterns, the water would never recede.

“Basically our dream retirement home has become our worst nightmare.”

Water has swamped the ground beneath Joan Blair's Rotoehu home.

She said the Rotorua Lakes Council had yet to assess the home but in her view: “The house is uninhabitable … it’s not fit for living in.”

A council spokesman said it was aware of six homes in the Rotoehu-Rotomā catchment, and one Rotoehu business premises, that had been inundated.

“[The] council has not deemed any homes uninhabitable.”

Neighbour Larry Carne owns the property two doors down from the Blairs, and has been working to waterproof the holiday home where possible, including by placing a protective layer between the piles and floor from underneath the house.

He described the slowly worsening situation as a “death by millimetres”.

“Every time it rains you can barely tolerate it.”

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The Blairs were helping drop off water-weighted barriers to try and keep lake waves from causing damage.

Roading concerns associated with the high lake levels were raised at a community meeting on Thursday evening at the Rotomā Rotoehu Community Hall.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Bay of Plenty system manager Roger Brady said there were low-lying parts of State Highway 30 and local roads at the lakes. There were months of repair ahead as roads had been damaged by a combination of earthquakes, heavy rain, and heavy vehicles, resulting in slips.

Waves from the lake also eroded roadsides, adding to the challenge of keeping access open to the homes along State Highway 30, which was currently only open to residents.

A single point of contact was being introduced for the community for concerns, information on roads and access help. It would be a joint incident management team, including the Rotorua Lakes and Bay of Plenty Regional councils.

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With this, Brady said communication would be better: “We will endeavour to give the community warning.”

Long-term options were being investigated, including raising the road level at points.

Water has swamped the ground beneath Joan Blair's Rotoehu home.

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