A new "Great Walk" around Lake Tarawera has the potential to become an iconic trail, as long as it's done right, say local commentators.
Yesterday, the Rotorua Daily Post reported that Rotorua MP Todd McClay and Te Mana o Ngati Rangitihi Trust chairman Leith Comer had secured funding for a feasibility study to look into the possibility of a three-day walk that would allow trampers to walk up Mt Tarawera to its summit and provide guided walks and a range of accommodation options.
The study will consider the economic benefits, cultural aspects and any environmental sensitivities of a proposed track.
The results of the study would be released later this year and Mr Comer said it was the first step in assessing whether the concept of an alpine track would meet the aspirations of the iwi.
Mr Comer said the initial idea was to have the walking track run from The Landing, using the existing trail to Hot Water Beach, where just around the corner the iwi owned land at Te Ariki where it could set up new accommodation options.
From Te Ariki people would walk to Tapahoro campsite for night two of the walk and then to Tarawera Falls, over the hill to Lake Okataina, or out to Kawerau.
Rotorua Lakes Council Lakes Community Board chairman Phill Thomass said a feasibility study with iwi as the principal participant would be an ideal start.
"I think the locals who live at Tarawera also need to be involved with this study as there could be increased loads on public facilities as well.
"I count myself extremely blessed to have gone to the top of Mt Tarawera a couple of times as it is an amazing place and a fantastic experience and for others to have that experience would be great.
"I hope it would also spur the Department of Conservation into more pest control around those lakes as we do have a problem with pests out there.
"But, I imagine it would definitely become an iconic walk in New Zealand if it went ahead," Mr Thomass said.
Te Tatou o Te Arawa chairman Te Taru White said it was a great idea.
"You can't hide all of this natural beauty and history and we can work on the infrastructure to make sure this can happen.
"You can imagine the spirit, the wairua, of the story and history of the area.
"It's wonderful our local iwi are working on great ideas such as this."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said Tarawera was a special place of environmental, cultural and historic significance "and we support iwi's vision for the area".
"Council has been aware of, but not involved, in plans to restore this unique natural area and consider its tourism potential.
"Tarawera is a real jewel in Rotorua's crown and the birthplace of New Zealand tourism and a new 'great walk' at Tarawera would be a good eco-tourism fit for our district.
"I look forward to the results of the feasibility study," she said.
Lake Tarawera 'Great Walk'
- Funding for a feasibility study for a Tarawera "Great Walk" has been approved
- It will find out if a three-day "alpine" walk around the lake will be possible
- It will look at the possibility of new camp sites and accommodation options
- Controlled, guided access of the summit would be part of the study
- The trail would go from The Landing to Hot Water Beach/Te Ariki and on to Tapahoro camp site to Tarawera Falls/Humphries Bay or over to Lake Okataina