Anna is a reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Three spend night in bush at Omanawa Falls

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Bay of Plenty locals fear someone will die at Omanawa Falls after three young New Zealand men spent the night lost and cold in the bush before turning up on a neighbour's door step in the morning.

Sarona Park resident Amanda, who would not give her last name for security reasons, opened her door at 7.30am yesterday morning to three, shivering New Zealand men in their late teens asking for help.

Omanawa Falls. Photo/file
Omanawa Falls. Photo/file

She said the three men told her they had gone to the falls the night before but were unable to climb back up from the waterfall due to the land conditions.

"They said the slip is so bad they couldn't get back up the way they came, so had to try and walk out through the bush."

Temperatures at Tauranga airport got down to 8.5C on Wednesday night with showers over the Bay of Plenty area making it a chilly night to camp outside.

She estimated 20 people had turned up at her family's house in the last year seeking help after getting lost finding, or coming back from Omanawa Falls.

"It's getting way out of hand and someone is going to get seriously hurt, or die," she said.

"Last weekend we had two French males turn up at about 8pm on Saturday night, and on Sunday we had one single New Zealand male turn up around 4pm. Mid week we had two German males.

"This is a security problem. It's not nice."

Warren Dawson, whose property is located near the falls, said the amount of people who ignored the signs to get down to the waterfalls had increased drastically in the last year.

"You can't stop it. These signs don't work, and in summer-time it's just Bedlam," he said.

Mr Dawson estimated this winter about every second day there would be someone visiting the falls, and in summer there were usually about 30 a day.

He said the signs warning people to not access the falls had "made no difference", due to people on social media showing others how to get to the base of the waterfall, and since its debut on the first season of the Bachelor.

"It's only going to get worse. It's stunning, absolutely beautiful and pristine. The best thing the council can do is make it safe and accessible... and to provide safe parking, toilets and access."

It's getting way out of hand and someone is going to get seriously hurt, or die.
Local resident

Tauranga City Council parks and recreation manager Mark Smith said the council would be asked to consider funding upgrades at the next Long Term Plan in 2018.

"Omanawa Falls is a very dangerous site with significant safety issues that are not easy to resolve.

When asked for a response to local concerns of possible fatalities and trespassing due to visitors at the falls, he said the council had been exploring options to make the park safe enough to open as soon as possible but there was no simple solution.

"The entrance to the park is closed with several warning signs and extra gates. It is very frustrating that some people persist in vandalising the gates to gain illegal access to the park. For their own safety, people should not attempt illegal entry to the falls."

Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne said access to the falls would be a good opportunity for visitors to the area as long as access was made 100 per cent safe.

Trustpower TECT Rescue Helicopter base manager and pilot Liam Brettkelly said they had been called out to rescue people injured or stuck at Omanawa Falls three times in the last four years.

On January 23, 2015 a 38-year-old man and his 12-year-old son were badly injured when they fell down a steep hillside trying to get around the locked metal door at the top of the tunnel that led to the powerhouse.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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