project update
Why are we developing the forest?
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, Ngāti Whakaue, Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao, and 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 replace the current national cycleway, Te Ara Ahi, and loop the trail around Whakarewarewa forest. This will become one of the New Zealand Cycle Trail’s Great Rides. 
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 Whakarewarewa and Tokorangi Forest includes places much-loved by many. They are of significance to iwi (Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao and Ngāti Whakaue respectively), 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 $14.5 million 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. 
Long Mile Road upgrade
The work at Long Mile Road will include formalising footpaths and shared paths, car and bus parking, upgrading stormwater management, kerbs, and channels, and improving the connection to Scion.
It will also include the creation of an entrance way of significance, featuring artworks and informative story-telling panels.
Work began on this in February 2019 and is scheduled to be complete by the end of the year. The progress photos below show the work that has been completed at the entrance of Long Mile Road to date. 
Tarawera Rd bus stop prior to upgrade
Tarawera Rd bus stop under construction
Upgraded Tarawera Rd bus stop
Tarawera/Long Mile Rd intersection prior to upgrade
Tarawera/Long Mile Rd intersection under construction
Upgraded Tarawera/Long Mile Rd intersection
Entrance to Long Mile Rd prior to upgrade
Entrance to Long Mile Rd during construction
Upgraded entrance to Long Mile Rd featuring formalised car parks and 3m wide shared pathway
Concept image of Long Mile Road once complete
Forest Loop Cycleway
The creation of a forest loop cycleway will replace the current Te Ara Ahi cycleway and become one of the New Zealand Cycle Trail’s Great Rides. The cycleway will include sites of significance. It will connect the Waipa Bike Hub and the Tarawera Road Forest Hub, and Lake Tikitapu. Work on this is scheduled to begin towards the end of 2019. 

Tarawera Road Forest Hub
Establishment of another Forest Hub entrance to provide additional access to the forest.
This will include:
○  Development of an entrance to the forest, that will be similar to the one at Waipa Bike Hub.
○  Construction of toilet and shower facilities.
○  Addition of a sealed carpark for 100 vehicles plus gravel and grass parks for a further 300 vehicles.
○  Development of event spaces.
Work on this project is scheduled to begin in June 2019.

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.
This will include:
○  Construction of a new Visitor Centre.
○  Creation of an improved connection through to the 'sail space' for functions and events.
○  Development of a natural play-space with picnic area.
Work is scheduled to begin on this in 2020.
Council has decided to pursue plans around future investment into the Tokorangi 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
Who is involved?
The project is a collaborative effort. Council is working closely with the landowners, CNI Iwi Holdings and mana whenua Ngāti Whakaue and Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao. Council will also be working closely with the Whakarewarewa Forest Managers, Timberlands Limited. 
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 does the funding received from the Central Government's Provincial Growth Fund mean for this project?
This funding is hugely significant and will allow the Whakarewarewa Forest Development 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 will provide $7 million for the Whakarewarewa Forest project.

When did work on the project start?

Funding from Central Government’s Provincial Growth Fund was announced in September 2018. The design work undertaken during the development of the business case phase meant we were able to start almost immediately. 

We have completed the tender process for the Long Mile Road upgrade and appointed a contractor to begin this work on 28 February 2019.

We are currently in the process of awarding a contract for the work required at the Tarawera Road Forest Hub. This work should begin in April 2019. 

How long will it take to complete? 

The project is being carried out in stages. Most of the work,  including Long Mile Road, the Tarawera Road Forest Hub, and the forest and city loop cycleways should be complete by 2020. The Visitor Centre and play space is expected to be complete by 2021.

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 arose through the development of Central Government’s Provincial Growth Fund. With support from the landowners and mana whenua, we seized the opportunity to apply for the fund by selecting projects that were 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 and the inclusion of a Whakarewarewa Forest loop cycleway which will become one of the New Zealand Cycle Trail’s Great Rides. 

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 400 cars, a bike wash station, key infrastructure and public toilets is also planned.

What are the roles of the Council and CNI when it comes to the forest?

The Tokorangi and Whakarewarewa forest lands* are owned by Central North Island Iwi Holdings Ltd, following its 2008 settlement with Government. 

Council is responsible for the management of the Tokorangi Forest block under the terms of the Crown Forestry Licence (CFL). Council also manages recreation in the Whakarewarewa Forest under a management agreement with CNI and Timberlands who hold the CFL for the Whakarewarewa Forest block. Both CFLs expire in 2043 when full management and ownership will be returned to mana whenua iwi.
Council is in the process of formalising a co-governance group for the Whakarewarewa Forest to support ongoing, sustainable recreational use, management and development in the forest. This group includes Rotorua Lakes Council, Te Komiti Nui O Ngāti Whakaue, Tuhourangi Tribal Authority, CNI and Timberlands. 
*While this area is commonly referred to as the Whakarewarewa Forest, it is made up of both the Tokorangi Forest and the Whakarewarewa Forest. Tokorangi Forest is the Redwoods area and the Whakarewarewa Forest is the commercial forest that grows beyond this. 

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. The $14.5 million investment is on top of the $811,000. 

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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