It's been another momentous year for mountain biking in the region. Who better to review progress than Dave Donaldson, Rotorua deputy mayor and chair of the company that oversees Crankworx (among other MTB hats).

"This was the year when the foundation was laid for a seismic change in the evolution of Whakarewarewa Forest as a recreational paradise and for mountain biking development generally in Rotorua," says Dave.

"What seemed an outrageous prediction 12 years ago is quickly materialising. Following the UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships in 2006, Jack Shallard, then Rotorua Council's corporate services director, told me, 'I reckon that in time Whakarewarewa Forest will not be big enough for what mountain biking here will
grow into.' Who'd argue that possibility, now?"

Here's Dave's summary of 2018:
• An economic impact assessment based on data captured from four of the 16 entry
points that are used by bikers, an online survey and interviews, conservatively
assessed the spend in our economy just on Mountain Biking in the forest by locals
and visitors in the range of $30-$50m in the 2017-18 year.

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• Roading and parking at the Waipa Hub was completed, the green light given to
construction of the new $1.5m track and home for Rotorua BMX, and the cafe/bike
hire and hot tubs developments nearing completion.

• Empire of Dirt's sponsorship of a new Dual Slalom Course in 'The Wattles' section of
Tokorangi Forest doubling as a race venue for Crankworx 2018 and a community
legacy facility – it gets hammered by local kids.

• New appointments and funding arrangements underpinning the amazing work being
done by the Rotorua Trails Trust and the Rotorua MTB Club with it's First Response
Unit.

• Improved bike access to the forest with CyWay upgrades, including Te Ara Ahi via
the Sanatorium Reserve where ecological restoration of this unique geothermal
environment is under way.

• A consent lodged for the alternative discharge of recovered water from our upgraded
Wastewater Treatment plant and the the removal of the Whakarewarewa Forest
Land Treatment System in keeping with the Deed signed between Rotorua Lakes
Council and forest landowners CNI Iwi Holdings.

• And the biggie, securing funding of up to $7.5m from the Provincial Growth Fund
matching Council's contribution to investment over the next three years on enhanced
forest infrastructure, including Forest Hub 2 near what we know as the 'Black House'
entrance off Tarawera Rd.

• A planned co-governance arrangement will ensure kaitiakitanga and sustainability
considerations are to the forefront as this investment stimulates private
developments such as a chairlift or accommodation and creates jobs.

• And let's not forget a visit by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to the Redwoods to
meet local mountain bikers with just one instapic from Prince Harry of that visit
charging towards 500k likes in a week.

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"That's some publicity and to cap all of this Crankworx received two nominations for the
annual New Zealand Events Association Awards," Dave adds.

"In 2019, the City of Trails is set to witness the Mountain Biking mura o te ahi or heat of battle like never before. Bring it on, I say."

The story behind the photo: The parents-to-be, the Duke and Duchess were given a
Tuatara by Indi (short for Indigo) Urwin, daughter of Vanessa Quin, 2004 World Women's
Downhill Champion, with Dave watching on.