The secret's out - Omanawa Falls is luring hordes of visitors.

The popularity of the falls appears to have been a bit of a word-of-mouth phenomenon - or, in today's parlance, it has gone viral.

Throughout summer, neighbours report that the falls are busy with tourists and locals keen to get that Instagram-worthy photo of a hidden paradise.

Once they've got that beautiful shot, they share it on their Instagram account or on Facebook, and it is seen by hundreds and thousands of people around the world.


In the last month and a half, 650 photos of the falls have been posted on Instagram. If each of those people has 100 followers, a conservative estimate, that's 65,000 people who could see those images - in less than two months.

Many of those people will also want to visit the beautiful falls and will post their own photos, encouraging more people to do the same.

Looking at these numbers, it's clear something needs to be done - and quickly.

The track to the falls is dangerous and getting to the bottom involves navigating a slip-prone track and near-vertical descents on 100-year-old ladders - some of which are broken or gone completely.

A colleague's relative who made the descent recently said the last portion of the track involved gripping rocks and tree roots to prevent falling.

Tauranga City Council is looking at a plan to improve access to the falls, which will go out for consultation in the Long-Term Plan, costing $2.7 million, $1m of which may come from the Government's Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

I hope this project is approved, before one of these thrill-seekers is seriously injured, or worse.

The sad result will be the opening up of the falls to more visitors, thereby destroying its allure as a hidden paradise.

But better safe than sorry.