Work on a fresh entrance to Whakarewarewa Forest on Tarawera Rd is expected to get under way later this month.

A karakia, led by Tuhourangi Tribal Authority board member Rangitihi Pene, was held with Rotorua Lakes Council and partners at the forest hub site this week to mark the beginning of the next stage of the Whakarewarewa Forest development.

An investment of $14.5 million is being used to enhance the forest amenity for all users with $7.5m coming from the Rotorua Lakes Council and $7m from the Government's Provincial Growth Fund.

 Forest hub site off Tarawera Road to be upgraded as part of the Whakarewarewa Forest development. Photo / Supplied
Forest hub site off Tarawera Road to be upgraded as part of the Whakarewarewa Forest development. Photo / Supplied

The Whakarewarewa Forest development is a collaborative project between the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao, Ngāti Whakaue, CNI Iwi Holdings and Rotorua Lakes Council.

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Higgins has been contracted to complete this work which is expected to be finished by March next year.

Rotorua Lakes Council representatives, the Whakarewarewa Forest development project team and partners at the karakia held at the forest hub. Photo / Supplied
Rotorua Lakes Council representatives, the Whakarewarewa Forest development project team and partners at the karakia held at the forest hub. Photo / Supplied

The council said Timberlands had been supportive of the new forest hub site located between Ōkareka Loop Rd and Lake Tikitapu.

The hub was one aspect of the project which also included upgrading Long Mile Rd and the visitor centre at the Redwoods.

The project would be completed over the next three years.

Currently just a gravel parking lot as part of the Whakarewarewa Forest development, the hub site would be transformed into an entrance to the forest that is fit for purpose.

Artists impression of visitors centre and cafe as part of the Whakarewarewa development. Image / Supplied
Artists impression of visitors centre and cafe as part of the Whakarewarewa development. Image / Supplied

This would involve the construction of a toilet and shower facility, the addition of a sealed carpark as well as overflow parking space, and the development of an event space and seating area.

Rotorua Lakes Council economic development portfolio lead Dave Donaldson said the new forest hub would meet the needs of a growing number of users.

"This is a popular entry point to the forest. The Whakarewarewa Forest project has given us the opportunity to develop and upgrade the amenities in this area while also providing an additional event space."

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Whakarewarewa Forest. Photo / File
Whakarewarewa Forest. Photo / File

Throughout construction this entrance to the forest would remain open with people needing to use the walking and biking tracks to bypass the construction site to reach the bottom of Hill Rd.

The carpark would be closed to vehicles so people are advised to park their cars at Lake Tikitapu.

There would be work taking place along Tarawera Rd and at times traffic management would be in place.

The council asked that people accessing the forest in this area were mindful of the construction site and abided by the signage that would be in place to keep themselves and the construction team safe.