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Published: 2011-01-23 00:00:00

About 300 campers were being evacuated from a Taupo campground this morning as Waikato authorities prepare for widespread flooding across the region.

Campers are being asked to leave the low-lying Spa Park as flood advisory notices are issued warning people living close to rivers and lakes to prepare for rising levels over the next three days.

Waikato Civil Defence duty officer Adam Munro repeated yesterday’s warning to trampers and people out fishing that rivers and streams will rise quickly in the Taupo area where another 200-300 mm of rain is forecast in the hills.

Heavy rain is also forecast to fall for at least the next 72 hours on all Waikato catchments which are already reaching saturation levels.

Environment Waikato will continue to monitor rainfall in the Taupo area to establish the likely peak lake level. In the meantime, those living close to the lake are advised to prepare for rising lake levels over the next three days at least. Elevated lake levels and strong winds may lead to erosion around the lake foreshore.

Mr Munro said that while Coromandel Peninsula, Hauraki Plains and Lake Taupo were of particular concern, high river levels were also expected in the slower moving Waipa and Waikato Rivers, with forecast flows approaching those seen during the summer 2004 flood.

“In that event, low-lying rural areas around Otorohanga, Huntly and Gordonton were flooded for several days,” he said.

 “The severity of the flood will depend on the amount of rain that falls over the next 48 hours so Environment Waikato will be keeping a close watch on river and rainfall levels.”

Early flood warnings have been triggered on a number of catchments across the regional council’s flood warning network, including the first early warning alarm level on the Waikato River at Hamilton’s Bridge Street site.

Rainfall is forecast to continue through today and tomorrow, with up to 200 mm forecast to accumulate. In response to this rainfall and a likely increase in the outflow from the Karapiro Dam, the central Waikato River is forecast to continue rising. People will see high river levels through Hamilton city however the peak is dependent on the outflow from Karapiro Dam and the amount of rainfall.

“Environment Waikato will continue to work closely with Mighty River Power to manage the outflows from the Karapiro Dam.”

The coastal flood risk in the Coromandel and Firth of Thames remains due to the particularly high tides which could worsen river flooding in low lying areas. People living near the coast are advised to prepare for these conditions, along with the potential for coastline erosion and a further rise in river levels.

People must not endanger their lives by entering flood waters, swollen rivers or streams and are advised to listen to their radio for the latest forecasts and warnings.