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The Department of Internal Affairs

The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Services › Harbourmaster Service at Lake Taupo

Service Overview

We provide Harbourmaster services from the Harbourmaster's Office at Taupo Harbour.

Our Harbourmaster services include:
  • issuing berthing permits
  • managing the 'Taupo Landing Reserve' comprising Harbourmaster's Office, with public toilets and commercial office sites, café and berthing area and adjacent 38 berths and ramp at Nukuhau
  • licensing commercial boat operators
  • administering examinations for the Lake Taupo Small Craft Operator's Certificate
  • maintaining navigation aids and ski lanes
  • clearing launching ramps of sand deposits and maintaining signage and jetties
  • patrolling the lake to enforce the Lake Taupo (Crown Facilities, Permits and Fees) Regulations 2004 and other relevant bylaws.
Short-term temporary berths are in constant demand, and most requests are accommodated throughout the year. Berths sometimes run out during the peak period over Christmas.

The average cost for an annual berthing permit is NZ$530.00, and the price for an annual ramp permit of NZ$52.10 means a boat can be launched for as little as 14 cents per day.

Contact Us

The Harbourmaster's Office is on call 24 hours a day. Phone: (07) 378-7176, Mob: 0274 223 024 or Email:

Boating on Lake Taupo

An information brochure available from the Harbourmaster's Office, phone (07) 378-7176, or PO Box 256, Taupo, includes a map of the lake showing navigation lights, boat ramps, ski lanes, no-boat-fishing areas, and information about lights and buoys - including launching ramp etiquette.

Here are some key points:

Use of Ramps
A ramp permit is needed to use Department of Internal Affairs ramp facilities. Permits are available from most local dairies or service stations. A fine of up to NZ$500.00 will be imposed for using a ramp without first getting a permit.

All hazards are shown on the Lake Taupo charts. A few are also marked by buoys or beacons. These are hazards that are hard for boaties to find who are not trained in the art of navigation. The most important and dangerous are:
  • the Horomatangi reef
  • the rock near the entry side of the ski lane at Moutere Bay
  • the reef and the isolated danger mark in Kawakawa Bay and
  • the reef at Whakaipo.
There are of course others, but in all cases when sighting a buoy or beacon, refer to your chart to positively identify the danger, its depth and position.

Anglers must have a current licence for the Taupo fishing district, administered by the Department of Conservation. Licences issued for other fishing districts (even Rotorua) are not valid at Taupo. Licences are widely available from retailers and service stations in the region. Anglers must know the trout fishing regulations, especially which fishing methods are prohibited, closed waters and seasons, and catch and size limits.

Boat Speeds
The speed limit is five knots within 200 metres of the shore or structures (such as wharves), and five knots within 50 metres of any other vessel, but special restrictions apply at:
  • the Waikato River from the red-green entry beacons - three knots maximum
  • the Kinloch marina entrance, two knots maximum.

Red-and-white striped buoys have been introduced to show 200 metres from shore.

Navigable Rivers
The only rivers which can be navigated by small vessels are the Waikato, Tongariro (in its delta region only), Tauranga-Taupo, Waihaha and Kuratau (at its mouth only). A strict three-knot speed limit applies to the Waikato (above the control gates, out as far as the wooden marker piles) and a five-knot limit to the others.

Hypothermia (Cold)
Is the biggest enemy on Lake Taupo. On small craft it is imperative to carry spare woollen clothing and/or wetsuits to wear in case of mishaps or prolonged immersion in the snow-fed lake.

Pollution and Sewage
It is an offence to pollute the lake waters with any fluid or solid matter detrimental to heath. This includes bottles, tins or cartons. Toilet pumping facilities are available for craft with sewage holding tanks or portable toilets, at the Landing Reserve main wharf, at the Motuoapa marina and at Tokaanu Marina.

Channel 61 is the standard calling fenquency for VHF transmissions between craft, coastguard and Taupo Harbour radio. After contact with other craft on Channel 61 (but not with shore stations) change to Channel 63. Boat-to-boat chat after establishing contact on Channel 61, when close together, should be on Channel 6 or 8.

Ten golden rules for safe boating:

1. Watch the weather
2. Don't overload
3. Carry full equipment, warm clothing
4. Wear tested lifejackets - a life jacket for every person on board is compulsory
5. Ensure your engine is reliable
6. Know the Collision Rules, the Water Recreation Regulations, the Lake Taupo Regulations and the Distress Signals
7. Guard against fire
8. Don't mix drinking and boating
9. Carry reserve fuel
10. Tell someone where you are going.

Lake Levels at Taupo

People sometimes get alarmed when they hear, in connection with electricity supply, that Lake Taupo is at a low level. That does not mean the wharves will all be high and dry and their boats stranded. It means only that the lake is low for the time of year, and "low" has a very limited and specific application.

For the millennia since the crater erupted and the lake formed, the Waikato flowed unhindered and the lake rose or fell randomly. The only effect of installing the control gates has been to hold back water, not to syphon it out. People who ask "When is Mighty River Power going to stop draining the lake dry?" are mistaken. Mighty River Power has control of the minimum and maximum levels, and by managing both the in-flow and the out-flow of water, it fine-tunes the resource.

In fact during long dry periods, the gates have been nearly shut on many occasions. If they were not, the lake would be a lot lower. The lake level is, and always will be, dependent on rainfall.

The average lake level varies by about 1.35m. The lowest level allowed since the control gates were installed is 355.85m above mean sea level. That is the level referred to as chart datum. It is called "CD" on the Lake Taupo navigation chart NZ232 and NZ2325. All boaties should carry a copy.

All depths are shown relative to chart datum. So if a rock is shown at a depth of 1.5m and the lake level is at chart datum the rock is 1.5m below the surface. Otherwise, you must add the depth of water above chart datum to 1.5m. You need to thoroughly understand the chart to use it effectively.

In fact, we have it easy on Taupo, with a gradual annual rise and fall within a range of only 1.35m. If for some unusual reason the level were to go outside that range it would be widely publicised. On the seacoast, by contrast, New Zealand has a working tidal range of up to four metres depending on the location (sea tides are magnified in narrowing harbours), and the low and high tides occur about every 6.25 hours.

Further Information

Further information is available from the Harbourmaster, Phone: (07) 378-7176, Mob: 0274 223 024 or PO Box 256, Taupo.