Lakes rise, homes washed out, Bay of Plenty climate change victims warn worst is yet to come

Bay of Plenty's latest climate change victims are warning the worst is yet to come. 

Heavy rain has filled Lake Rotorua and Lake Rotoehu and they're getting bigger, engulfing homes as water levels rise.

Half a dozen homes are already washed out, with many more feared to be next. 

"Bit heart-wrenching really. We had treble monthly rainfalls for January and February and in the first 10 days of May Lake Rotoma rose 560 millimetres, so in 10 days it rose more than half a metre," said Bay of Plenty Regional Council lakes operation manager Andy Bruere. 

With the soil saturated, water in both Lake Rotoehu and Rotoma has nowhere to go but up. 

Since the start of the year, Ōtautū Bay on Lake Rotoehu has seen water levels rise and cause widespread damage and forced evacuations. 

Ōtautū Bay resident Adrian Holmes told Newshub the "water has been slowly but surely rising - death by millimetres". 

"It really is that. It's just slowly encroaching."

Access to Holmes' property has been almost entirely cut off, and his ground floor has been gutted. 

"Rats are a bit of an issue so it's good to try and keep everything at bay. You know the damage will be severe, it will be a rebuild of the bottom plates for sure."

On the next lake over, Rotoma locals are having to pump water from their properties 24/7. 

Bryce Allan has been forced to close his shop for six weeks. 

"Thirty-nine years we've been here and we've never seen water like this," Allan told Newshub.   

Rotorua Lakes Community Board chair Phill Thomass said "it's an absolute disaster for these people".

Rainbow Trout Lodge on Lake Rotoehu has been lifted a metre and a half to avoid the creeping water level.

"You can see their whole section is underwater. If they hadn't lifted it up it would have water gushing through it now," Thomass said. 

And this is just the beginning. Winter is ahead and any more rain could be catastrophic.

There are fears Lake Rotoma could soon dramatically overflow into the neighbouring lake causing already high water levels to surge. 

"It only needs to rise another half metre, that would cause water flow into Lake Rotoehu and so those areas are going to be even more at risk," Thomass told Newshub. 

There are no long-term solutions in the pipeline and no one knows how long the flooding will stay.

"It's just a waiting game, the talk is a couple of years," Holmes said. 

All locals can do is watch the water rise and hope for a dry winter.