A recipe for serious injury may be brewing at Omanawa Falls this Labour weekend.

In the pot is a bubbling mix of long weekend visitors, an okay weather forecast, recent publicity of the internet-famous area's beauty and - this just in - a vital safety barrier taken out by a big slip.

Tauranga City Council's parks and recreation team leader Warren Aitken said the rockfall was discovered this week.

He said the barrier it destroyed was there to protect walkers from a 15m fall down a steep bank. He advised people to stay away, as the area was even more dangerous than before.

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"We don't want any more accidents."

Tauranga City Council's parks and recreation team leader Warren Aitken is warning people to stay away from Omanawa Falls. Photo George Novak
Tauranga City Council's parks and recreation team leader Warren Aitken is warning people to stay away from Omanawa Falls. Photo George Novak

Security fencing and warnings have not stopped people from making their way down the treacherous informal track - featuring 100-year-old ladders and a hand-dug tunnel - to reach the picturesque base.

According to council figures, six people have been seriously injured since 2013 and many more have had to be rescued after getting lost or falling.

Two experienced Tauranga-based rescuers have called on anyone thinking about heading to the falls this weekend to remember they may be putting rescuers in danger as well as themselves.

Steve Campbell and Shaun Thomson were among those welcoming news from the council this week of plans for a $2.7m project to make public access into the canyon safe.

Mr Campbell, the general manager of Youth Search and Rescue New Zealand and a former Trustpower TECT Rescue Helicopter winch operator, said the area was as dangerous as it was attractive. The danger multiplied "10-fold for rescuers", he said.

"Please don't go. Resist the urge."

The rescue helicopter could and had flown into the canyon, but there were many hazards for pilots to navigate - from wind updrafts and overhanging rocks or foliage to tourist's drones.

Omanawa Falls' dangerous beauty. File photo
Omanawa Falls' dangerous beauty. File photo

Mr Thomson, a Land Search and Rescue volunteer and team leader of the Western Bay's Response Team 16, said his team - which includes rope rescue specialists - were being called to the falls area multiple times a year.

He said many recent rescues had been of people from out of town.

"It is a treacherous place. Even in the daytime, the banks are quite steep."

It was happening so frequently the team was planning a "recon" session in the area to prepare for future callouts.

In May they were called to rescue a group of five trampers who slipped down a bank. He said rescuers had to make the treacherous journey in the dark and wet to get the group to safety.

By the numbers

- Six - number of people seriously injured at Omanawa Falls since 2013
- 1602 - number of Instagram posts tagged #omanawafalls
- 155 - number of visitors to the closed park counted one day in summer
- Sept 2019 - expected completion date of proposed new access