Tourists flood into 'alpine lake' created after Kaikoura earthquake

Kaitlin Ruddock
Source: 1News

Kaikoura has a new water feature - an alpine 'lake' 800 metres above sea level.

'Hapuku Lake' was created by a landslide during the November 14 earthquake.

Now it's attracting tourists, including wedding parties, wanting their picture taken with the natural phenomenon.

"Everyone loves a lake," South Pacific Helicopter's Daniel Stevenson told 1 NEWS during an exclusive tour.

"It's proven now, you go through Milford sound in Queenstown, Wanaka and everyone's landing up at lakes and taking photos".

Visitors to Kaikoura typically explore at sea, while this photo opportunity lies 840 metres up in the mountains.

Landslide dams:

Hapuku is just one of 200 landslide dams created when the November 14 earthquake dislodged massive slips into river valleys. Ten are still being watched closely for trouble and there's still a moderate chance three may fail. But most have settled into their new form and won't be dangerous.

A water level monitor has been set up on Hapuku Lake, which will alert residents in the area if the levels drop dramatically.

"Over the last year we've had some really heavy rain events, it's filled up, and overtopped a couple of times," says Environment Canterbury river engineer Shaun McCracken.

"But it's still a really big lake up there. So there's still an element of risk that remains".

Future drawcard:

The lake can be accessed on foot, but Kaikoura's tourism council isn't ready to put the quake lake on a billboard.

"You've got to be very cautious, there's no formed track going up there. So we're not encouraging people to walk up there at this stage," says Destination Kaikoura General Manager Glenn Ormbsy.

He recommends people use commercial helicopter operators if wanting to get up close to Hapuku, agreeing the lake is "absolutely" an added bonus that's arrived in Kaikoura since the quake.

Is it a really lake?:

It's small by lake standards , with a length of 400m and a width of 100m. In fact, you could fit around 40,000 Hapuku's into Lake Tekapo. But experts believe it’s here to stay.

The New Zealand Geographical Board says there’s generally no specific criteria relating to size or depth etc. to limit how a geographic term such as 'lake' is used.

Secretary Wendy Shaw says common use is often how terms are given and ultimately accepted, in this case 'Hapuku Lake' and not 'Lake Hapuku'.