NZ Geothermal Fields

Geothermal systems occur in many parts of New Zealand. High temperature geothermal fields are principally located in the Taupo Volcanic Zone, with another high temperature field at Ngawha in Northland. Moderate to low and very low temperature systems are more widely scattered. Some are associated with areas of young volcanism: in Northland, Hauraki Plains, and the coastal Bay of Plenty. Many hot springs, particularly in the South Island, are associated with faults and tectonic features.

By the 1980s it was believed that all of New Zealand’s high temperature geothermal resources had been identified, a situation that few other countries can claim even today. Of New Zealand’s 129 identified geothermal areas, fourteen are in the 70-140ºC range, seven in the 140-220ºC range and fifteen in the >220ºC range.

The Taupo Volcanic Zone extends from White Island in the Bay of Plenty southwest to Mt Ruapehu. Geothermal fields are associated with young and active rhyolitic volcanism. Magma intruded into the stretched and fractured crust of the zone has resulted in temperatures of at least 350ºC at depths of less than 5 km. This has provided a huge heat source from which geothermal systems have developed and been sustained for periods of up to hundreds of thousands of years. A total of 29 geothermal areas have been identified, although only about half of these have potential for resource utilisation. Individual fields are typically about 12 sq km in area and spaced 15 km apart, and include all those in New Zealand that discharge boiling water.

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The Ohaaki-Broadlands Geothermal System is located within the Waikato Region, 20km northeast of Taupo, immediately south of State Highway 5. The field covers an area of about 5 to 11 km2.

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The Mokai Geothermal System is located within the Waikato Region, 20 km north of Taupo. It covers an area of about 12 to 16 km2.

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The Rotorua Geothermal System underlies much of Rotorua City and the southern margin of Lake Rotorua. It covers an area of about 15km2.

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The Rotokawa Geothermal System is located within the Waikato Region, about 14 km northeast of Taupo and 9 km east of Wairakei. The associated thermal area has extensive surface features including fumaroles, eruption craters and collapse pits. Lake Rotokawa fills one crater, and there are large deposits of sulphur surrounding and beneath the lake. The field covers an area of about 15 to 18 km2.

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The Kawerau geothermal field is located in the Bay of Plenty Region, and sits in both the Kawerau and Whakatane districts. The system covers an area of about 35km2 and is bisected by Tarawera River.

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The Ngatamariki Geothermal System is located within the Waikato Region, 5km south of Orakeikorako and 17 km north-east of Taupo. The Ngatamariki Geothermal Development is located within what was the Tahorakuri Forest, and is bordered by farmland to the east and west, and the Waikato River along the northern and southern boundary. The field covers an area of about 7 to 12 km2.

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