An upgraded public area at Te Rere o Ōmanawa/ Ōmanawa Falls has opened.
Over the past three years, Ngāti Hangarau and Tauranga City Council have “worked to realise a vision for this spectacular but hazardous site which allows visitors to enjoy safe public access,” the council said in a statement.
The upgrade included a new walking track, lookout platforms, ecological, cultural and historic education panels, a car park, and cliff-face safety improvements.
The picturesque Western Bay of Plenty falls have been closed to the public for safety reasons but for years people have still tried to get to them.
In 2021, Ōmanawa Falls peaked in popularity on social media such as Instagram but also that year, a man died at the falls and another drowned in the pool at the base of the waterfall in 2018. Others have been seriously injured.
Plans to restore full access to the falls were abandoned earlier this year because of increased costs.
The council said in the statement there had been no public access to the water’s edge and swimming was not permitted for safety and cultural reasons.
The public was asked to respect that requirement.
Ngāti Hangarau Hapū Trust chairman Patrick (Koro) Nicholas said there was a unique and special character at Ōmanawa Falls that guests would be able to connect with.
”For many generations, our people have been using these falls as a place to connect with our land, to connect with our ecosystems, to connect with our environment.”
Nicholas said guests should take time to read the onsite signage which would help them to get the most out of their visit.
People can also learn about the falls’ hydro-generation history and its role in delivering power to light Tauranga’s first electric streetlamps over 100 years ago.
Tauranga City Council commission chairwoman Anne Tolley said in the statement that Ōmanawa Falls had a rich and fascinating history.
”The Ōmanawa Falls Power Station was the first underground, hydro-generating power station in the entire southern hemisphere. Visitors will be able to learn all about this from our information panels, while taking in the miraculous views.”
Te Rere o Ōmanawa/ Ōmanawa Falls: 8am – 7.30pm in summer (from when daylight saving starts)8am – 5.30pm in winter (from when daylight saving ends)