A new act of disregard for a sacred Rotorua lake has come just days after access closures.
Red tape covering the entrance to the newly-closed Te Kōtukutuku trail was torn down, and the trail ridden by at least three mountain bikers on Thursday.
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The trail and others around Lake Rotokākahi, Green Lake, were closed earlier this week after the Rotokākahi Board of Control went public with concerns the lake was being disrespected.
Lake Rotokākahi, Green Lake, is privately owned by iwi and no swimming, fishing or boating is allowed.
Its small island, Motutawa, is the burial ground of many Māori ancestors, and Rotokākahi is now overseen by a Board of Control.
Most of the trails nearby were built by Rotorua Trails Trust volunteers.
On Monday, in a post on Facebook, the trust announced "the trails leading to Lakefront Rd, as well as Lakefront Rd itself are closed until we can come up with a permanent solution".
The closures come at the peak of the summer tourism season in Rotorua.
A 2018 economic impact study revealed people who ride in Whakarewarewa Forest contribute between $30 million and $50m in spending annually to the Rotorua economy.
Mountain Bike Rotorua co-owner Tak Mutu said on Friday the fact the tape had been torn down "shows why the board members [Board of Control] felt like they needed to take action".
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"We want to help get the problem solved and educate people," he said.
Earlier in a Facebook post, Tak and his brother and business partner Tu wrote that "99.9 per cent of mountain bikers are awesome" but someone had "taken it upon themselves to remove the tape from the track and that isn't cool".
"There were literally thousands of people in the forest today and it is an absolute tiny minority who are causing issues.
"We've managed to track down the three mountain bikers who are from out of town and we believe them when they say that the tape was already down and they had no idea of the situation."
They said it was "really hard" to work with the Board of Control in good faith "when people can't even respect what could be a short closure".
"This sort of behaviour will only make things worse."
Earlier in the week, the brothers wrote that their grandmother and uncle were buried on Motutawa.
"The lake itself was once used as an urupā by both Tūhourangi and Ngati Tu although today we bury on the island that sits in the middle. It is one of the few lakes that is considered tapu and that we ask for people to stay out of.
"However there are a few recreational users who have decided that the rules don't apply to them. This is really unfortunate and this has seen the board who controls the lake take desperate measures of taping off tracks."
Deputy mayor and avid mountain biker Dave Donaldson told the Rotorua Daily Post it was not his place to discuss disrespect for the lake's tapu status.
"I do not think it is helpful for politicians to be discussing the current concerns."
He said the council was involved in decision making about trail building and access around the lake as part of the Forest Recreation Committee, alongside CNI Iwi Holdings Ltd and Timberlands.
"These are operational matters."
He said it was "essential that we all respect that the current issues are being addressed, albeit with many of the key operational personnel away on holiday, and that we respect there will be a process to work through for the owners and managers of the forest while these sections of trail remain closed".
"There are more than 160km of open trails for enjoyment by all forest users pending this matter being resolved."
Ride Rotorua spokesman Graeme Simpson said: "Wherever there's tape in the forest it must be respected. It could be there for health and safety reasons, logging or even an event that's on. But either way, don't break the tape because you might put yourself in danger if nothing else."
He said there were "people upset and angry on both sides of the argument".
"I understand why the restrictions are being imposed at the moment. We are guests in the forests and I think that's something people don't quite get."
Gaz Sullivan, the Rotorua co-founder of sports equipment brand Nzo, said he was "very grateful to the landowners and managers of Whakarewarewa Forest for the co-operation we enjoy as recreational visitors".
"The forest is the reason we came to live in Rotorua, pure and simple. It has remained a main driver in keeping us here for the last 20 years or so."
He said it was a privilege to visit the area around Lake Rotokākahi and hoped "the actions of a few don't ruin it".
The Rotokākahi Board of Control delegated chairman Wally Lee to be interviewed by the Rotorua Daily Post, but he has not yet been able to be reached for comment.
Last year the International Mountain Biking Association renewed the city's gold-level ride centre status for another four years.
There are currently only six gold-level centres in the world.