A donation box could soon be greeting Mauao's million annual visitors to fund maintenance of the iconic landmark and make the experience more memorable.

The idea was floated by Karen Ellis after she saw the Huka Falls donation box near Taupo.

"I thought to myself, how wonderful if Mauao had something like that," she said.

Tauranga city councillor Bill Grainger has backed the initiative and has guided her in contacting the authorities whose support was needed to make it happen.

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Almost a million people are using Mauao every year ... the tracks take a beating.

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He suggested the donation box should be part of a larger carved sign that included a brief history of the mountain.

Ms Ellis said the donation box was aimed more at visitors and tourists rather than locals, who already helped fund maintenance through rates.

"I might pop the odd dollar in, but that is not the idea," the Tauranga resident said.

Cr Grainger said 100 cruise ships were due to visit Tauranga next season, and a lot of the passengers who opted to stay local would enjoy Mauao.

"Almost a million people are using Mauao every year ... the tracks take a beating."

Donations would also assist with combating rabbits, and to help Mauao recover from slips and fires.

Read more: Mauao fire deliberately lit

"There are so many people using Mauao that are not ratepayers," he said.

Even if a quarter of the people who used Mauao gave a gold coin donation it would add up to a significant amount of money.

Ms Ellis said people would be more inclined to made a donation if there was a value-added component like a storyboard that explained what Mauao was about.

The ultimate decision lay with Tauranga Moana's three iwi who owned the maunga, but her idea was to seek public feedback on the proposal in order to make sure it was done right.

"It is pretty sensitive and we want to make sure we go through the right channels."

Ms Ellis, whose whakapapa is on the East Coast, said the idea was for visitors to give back to something they had enjoyed.

Awanui Black, the deputy chairman of the ownership trust, said if people wanted to contribute then that would be excellent.

"The most iconic geographic point in the Bay is that mountain."

He said the Friends of Mauao did a lot of planting work to restore the cloak of Mauao, and if people wanted to contribute by way of koha to help with work like this then the trust would support that.

"The money could be used for any number of maintenance and restoration projects."

Mr Black said donations could also be used to prepare interpretation panels along the tracks to tell the story of Mauao.

He said Tauranga did not have many places of entertainment for visitors and nearly everyone who visited went to Mauao. "It should be something so that when people turn up at Mauao they know they are walking into a special place and that their contribution is valued." Mr Black believed that locals would also donate once they got an appreciation of Mauao through the interpretation panels and realised it was about more than recreation.

Although ownership of Mauao was passed to the three iwi in 2008 by an Act of Parliament, the day-to-day operations were the responsibility of a committee that comprised council representatives and iwi owners.

Mr Black said there was still a lot of work to be done on the proposal and he had been engaged by the Mauao Trust to consult with other parties.


Costs to maintain Mauao as a public reserve

• Total operating budget for this year $330,000.
• Funded by rates, reserve rentals, livestock sales, and contribution from holiday park.
• Pays for all track maintenance and operating contracts.
• Excludes the cost of staff time and overheads like vehicles and office costs.

Source: Tauranga City Council