project update
Why are we doing this?
Mountain biking and trail walking/running in the Tokorangi and Whakarewarewa forests are part of Rotorua’s DNA.  Since the late 1980s, Rotorua has worked alongside land owners, iwi representatives and users (who form the more recently established Rotorua Trail Trust) to strategically develop and leverage the district’s natural assets.  This activity has spawned a range of successful commercial entities and activities including the establishment of the global Crankworx event in 2015. The trails attract an estimated 230,000 people per year for mountain biking and between 600-800 thousand other visitors per year. 
In recognition of user expectations for new frontier trails and the need to strategically plan for these, CNI Iwi Holdings Ltd (the vested land holders of Whakarewarewa) together with Rotorua Lakes Council have developed a masterplan for Tokorangi and Whakarewarewa forest blocks adjacent to the city.
The plan identifies key recreational, cultural and commercial development opportunities specifically in the Tokorangi forestry block with services supporting the users and visitors, the establishment of integrated trails, development of an outdoor event area, and the placement of interpretation information, lookouts, playgrounds and picnic areas.
Council’s investment will focus initially on the Redwoods/Tokorangi visitor centre and Long Mile Road entrance.  This will enhance road access and coach and public parking.  Following that a hub will be created further up Tarawera Road to provide additional access to the forest and provide visitor infrastructure.  It is envisaged these trails will be linked directly through to the CBD, making them readily accessible for locals and tourists alike.  Work is also underway to improve the current national cycleway, Te Ara Ahi, and loop the trail around Whakarewarewa forest.
It is anticipated that once the foundations are laid, commercial investment interests will follow for the benefit of everyone in our region.
What is proposed?
The iconic tokorangi and Whakarewarewa Forest includes places much-loved by many. They are of significance to iwi (with Ngāti Whakaue and Tūhourangi as mana whenua), and a popular playground for local and visiting walkers and bikers. They are recognised as important recreational areas for the Rotorua community and as assets that attract events and tourism. 
Rotorua Lakes Council is managing an investment of $15 million between now and 2020 to enhance the forest amenity and improve the experience for all. 
The design will highlight the cultural identity of the Whakarewarewa Forest.  This will be evident through the inclusion of histories, names and narratives. The new Visitor Centre will include a cultural narrative that will enhance the visitor experience. 
Te Ara Ahi Forest Loop & Long Mile Road
The creation of a forest loop cycleway and walkway as part of Te Ara Ahi cycleway and improvement of the Long Mile Road entrance. To create somewhere truly special. It will involve enhancing the overall roading amenity, including the addition of new parking and coach turnaround zone. This includes:
The completion of the entire Te Ara Ahi Forest Loop cycleway and walkway. This will include sites of significance. It will connect all the forest hubs including Waipa Bike Hub and the Tarawera Road Forest Hub, the Long Mile Road Visitor Centre, Lake Tikitapu and Lake Rotokakahi.
Infrastructure upgrades at Long Mile Road, including stormwater management, kerbs, and channels, footpaths and shared paths, car and bus parking, and an improved connection to Scion. 
The creation of an entrance way of significance, featuring artworks and informative story-telling panels.
Tarawera Road Forest Hub
Establishment of another Forest Hub entrance to provide additional access to the forest. 
This will include:
​○  A new forest hub will be established here to provide additional access to the forest. Work on this project will start in November 2019. 
○  Development of an entrance to the forest, that will be similar to the one at Waipa Bike Hub.
○  Construction of a new toilet and shower facilties.​​
○  Addition of a sealed carpark.​​​
○  Creation of a beginner bike trail with potential for an intermediate level skills zone.
○  Development of an event space.
○  Creation of story-telling panels.
Visitor Centre & Play Space 
Replacement of the current Visitor Centre with a purpose-built centre designed to welcome more than half a million visitors each year. 
○  Construction of a new Visitor Centre.
○  Establishment of increased car parking and dedicated coach parking.
○  Creation of an improved connection through to the 'sail space' for functions and events.
○  Development of a natural play-space with picnic area.
Council has decided to pursue plans around future investment into the Tokorangi Triangle and Whakarewarewa forest.  This investment is driven by strong evidence that supports strengthened economic development and tourism, not to mention the benefits of enhanced recreation opportunities.  
Total investment by Council has been set at $7.5 million. Based upon this level of investment it is anticipated that match funding from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund for the public spaces will provide the catalyst for further private investment and enhancements.  
○ Year 1 = $2.5 million
○ Year 2 =$2.5 million
○ Year 3 = $2.5 million
What does the funding received from the Central Government's Provincial Growth Fund mean for this project?
The announcement of this funding is hugely significant and will allow the Whakarewarewa Forest Developments to proceed much sooner, rather than later. Council’s share of funding for the project was approved as part of the Long-Term Plan process, however this was always dependent on funding from external partners.
This project, while hugely significant for both Rotorua and New Zealand, was too much for ratepayers to fund on their own and we are grateful to the Government for partnering with us to achieve it.
How much Government funding has been provided?
The Government has announced it will give $7.5 million for the Whakarewarewa Forest project.
When will work on the project start?
The design work undertaken during development of the business case phase means we can start almost immediately. We’ve already sought expressions of interests from companies wanting to tender for this project.
We hope to complete the tender process and appoint a contractor as soon as possible so physical works can begin by early 2019.
How long will it take to complete?
The project is being carried out in stages. The initial stage, which includes Long Mile Road, is expected to be completed by the end of 2019. The Forest Hub development is expected to be completed by early 2020.
We hope to have most capital works completed in three to four years.
What is involved?
The redevelopment of Whakarewarewa Forest opens significant opportunities for the city, as well as benefits for tourism nationally. It will also spark millions of dollars of investment and create new jobs.
The ongoing development of Whakarewarewa Forest is about enhancing our lifestyle and creating areas that are sustainable for future generations, as well as making the forest more accessible for a variety of users to enjoy.
How was the project selected?
The opportunity to kick-start this project sooner than anticipated has arisen through the development of Central Government’s Provincial Growth Fund. With support from mana whenua, we have seized the opportunity to apply for the fund by selecting projects that are ready to be worked on and match the pūtea (funding) criteria. The fund aims to lift productivity potential in the provinces, create jobs and enhance community benefits.
What does the forest development specifically include?
Stage one includes the redevelopment of Long Mile Road, including improvements to the entrance from Tarawera Road, specific coach parking, formalising car parking to be 150 in total and the inclusion of a Whakarewarewa Forest loop as part of Te Ara Ahi National Cycleway.
The second stage includes the establishment of a second Forest Hub and public carpark off Tarawera Road, halfway between Long Mile Road and Lake Tikitapu, to provide a third entranceway to the forest. A public carpark to cater for 100 cars, a bike wash station, key infrastructure and public toilets is also planned.
Who is involved?
The project is a collaborative effort. We are working closely with the owners, CNI Iwi Holdings and mana whenua Ngāti Whakaue and Tuhourangi, as part of our co-governance arrangement.
As we progress, we will be working with wider stakeholders to consider how they would like to be involved and what opportunities are available to them.
What are the roles of the Council and CNI when it comes to the forest?
The Tokorangi and Whakarewarewa Forests are vested in Central North Island Iwi Holdings Ltd, following its 2008 settlement with Government.
The Council is responsible for the management of the Tokorangi forest block under the terms of the Crown Forestry Licence. That licence expires in 2043 when full management will be passed to mana whenua iwi.
The Council is establishing a co-governance group for the Whakarewarewa Forest to support the development and ongoing activity in the forest. This group will include RLC, CNI, Te Komiti Nui O Ngāti Whakaue, Tuhourangi Tribal Authority and Timberlands.
Hasn’t this project already received funding?
Yes, the Whakarewarewa Forest development was one of two projects that received more than $811,000 of funding in June 2018 to allow Council to complete the designs and final business cases. These business cases were crucial in securing this further Provincial Growth Fund funding.
Does the public get the chance to have their say on the project?
This project was part of the Long-Term Plan consultation process which attracted hundreds of submissions. As work progresses, Council will continue to keep our partners, stakeholders and the wider community informed in a variety of ways including through our e-pānui.
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