The company which manages the region’s nine hydro plants is warning Cambridge residents to be wary of the potential dangers of the Waikato River and Karapiro Lake, after an increase in risky behaviour at the popular summer hotspots.
“The hot Waikato summer has made the cool waters of the river look inviting, but the risks are there year-round,” said Mercury’s Hydro Generation Manager Andrew Peckham.
He said Mercury teams at both the Karapiro and Arapuni stations had noticed an increase in risky behaviour.
“People looking to cool off in the river have been launching kayaks within the 200m safety exclusion zone (200m above and below the Karapiro dam).
“We’ve even spotted people trying to ‘launch’ an inflatable paddling pool into the river below Karapiro dam.”
Even if people do decide to float down the river, Peckham said the main message from the company was they should stay out of the 200m exclusion zones around the hydro stations.
“They’re clearly marked,” he said. “And no matter what you float on, always wear a life jacket.”
He reminded river users that flow rates and currents could change without warning, and to be aware of other river users, such as jet boats drivers who might not see people in unexpected, risky places.
“We’re not the fun police or the water safety experts but we know the river and its unpredictable flows and levels – some of this is due to it being a working hydropower system that supplies around 10% of New Zealand’s electricity.
“The river and lakes are deep, the flow can be deceptive, and there are hidden dangers, such as rocks beneath the surface. Areas aren’t patrolled like beaches so you can’t assume help is near if you get into trouble.”