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Published: 2004-02-29 00:00:00

The Waikato is bracing for more flooding as the Region’s rivers flow at their peaks through to the lower Waikato area.

Environment Waikato’s flood response team was activated early this morning as about 35 homes ere evacuated around Lake Taupo and the Tongariro River area. Water is now beginning to recede in the upper Waikato River area and assessments are being done of the damage.

Environment Waikato is working closely with Mighty River Power to adjust the flows through the hydro lakes to minimise impacts on the lower Waikato area.

Lake Taupo is full, with very large inflows from its tributaries and the Tongariro River is flowing at a one-in-100-year flow. About 90 people are being looked after at a centre in Taupo and State Highway One is closed at Orouatua. Sandbagging is being done around the Tauranga-Taupo River.

River systems have already overtopped and properties in the area have been undermined.

The control gates at Taupo have been fully open for the past three weeks to push water through the system, all the eight hydro lakes along the Waikato River are full and the tributary rivers and streams have had significant flows. Flows in the Upper Waipa River are as high as the major flood of 1998 and are still rising.

The Upper Waipa River is flowing higher than it did in the major flood of 1998 but there are indications that where the Waikato and Waipa join at Ngaruawahia the river will flow at lower than the peak flow of 1998. Those heavy flows will take a day or so to reach Ngaruawahia and several more hours to reach Mercer in the Lower Waikato.

There will be significant rises in water levels in the lower Waikato. Water is expected to get close to the spillway level at Rangiriri, where Environment Waikato floods water across State Highway One into Lake Waikare. This was done in 1998 for the first time in 27 years.

Mr Fowlds said the Mercer West area was likely to be inundated and residents in the Morrison Road area have been warned. Morrison Road will be raised by fill material to protect the areas behind it.