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

About 35 homes near the Tongariro River have been evacuated as the river burst its banks in places overnight.

Lake Taupo is approaching its maximum with very large inflows from its tributaries and the Tongariro River is flowing at a one-in-100-year flow. Fifteen families near the Tauranga-Taupo River near Taupo have also been evacuated as the river reached its peak - 6.3 metres – and the river banks are being sandbagged.

About 90 people are being looked after at a centre in Taupo. State Highway One is closed at Orouatua.

Environment Waikato’s Flood Response team is keeping a close watch on a rapidly filling river system throughout the upper North Island after weeks of rain.

Environment Waikato flood manager Scott Fowlds said power company Genesis was asked to turn off its diversions from the Whangaehu and Wanganui Rivers going into Lake Taupo last night.

This decision had been held as long as possible because of the serious flooding already in the Manawatu region where the Whangaehu flows.

The control gates at Taupo had been flowing at full stretch 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 had had significant flows. Flows in the Upper Waipa River are as high as the major flood of 1998 and are still rising.

Environment Waikato is managing flows through the river system and rain has stopped, but more is predicted to be on the way. Mr Fowlds said people living in the lower Waikato River needed to be very aware of the situation and watch the water.