Plans to fix the dangerous lure of one of the Bay's beauty spots, Omanawa Falls, have been cautiously welcomed.
"The council was in a catch-22 situation, it was damned if it did and damned if it didn't," the associate professor of environmental management at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology Ian McLean said.
He was responding to a $2.7 million proposal to build a staircase linking the track to the pool at the bottom of the picturesque falls. It would replace the dangerous and unauthorised access taken by thousands of young people every year via a track and 100-year-old ladders.
Dr McLean said the council was responding to pressure to provide a safe way to reach the bottom. "In terms of the council's responsibility to the community, it makes sense."
He said building a safe access would boost Omanawa Falls as a tourist attraction. "It is a beauty spot and people will enjoy going there."
The risk was that the area around the bottom of the falls would become too popular, raising the possibility that Omanawa Falls could be loved to death, he said.
"It is something that would have to be managed.''
Dr McLean also saw a scenario where the staircase could become unsafe because it was being used by too many people at the same time.
''Imagine if a couple of dozen families wanted to go down [the staircase] for a picnic"
The council could be responding to an identified need, instead of what happened when the falls became a real tourist destination, he said.
"Whatever they put in place may not be enough to cope with demand."
Nearby resident Angela Dix said she wished the staircase could be finished earlier than September 2019.
"It is a beautiful place, it should be opened up."
She said they had been asking the council for years to put up a sign to stop tourists wandering over their Omanawa Rd property, trying to find the way to the falls.
"We have to keep our roadside gates locked."
She understood the council was reluctant to put up a sign because people were not supposed to be down there.
''But people are going there anyway, it does not make any difference.''
The operator of the underground hydropower station next to the falls, Kane Henderson, said he was 100 per cent behind any initiative to ensure public safety.
"Anything that provides safe access to the public is a good thing."
Mr Henderson did not believe it would impact on the station's operations. He expected that if the council was providing access it would also provide an area to accommodate people at the bottom by the pool.
A nearby resident, who asked not to be named, said it sounded positive, provided the two toilets were at the bottom of the staircase and the area was kept clean of rubbish.
"The council has to do something, otherwise it is a disaster waiting to happen."
He said residents were worried about traffic issues. He had counted 40 cars parked at the top of the track on summer weekends, and it was not uncommon to see 10 to 15 cars.
"There are definite positives and definite drawbacks."
The project would be considered for funding as part of the council's 2018-28 Long Term Plan.
Opening up Omanawa Falls
- Purchase roadside land for carpark
- Signs, park furniture and access gate
- New boardwalk at base of falls