Concerns about increased traffic, noise and environmental impacts are at the forefront of many of the submissions opposing a proposed sustainable tourism venture at Okere Falls.
Forty-five submissions were made about an application for a new zipline tourist attraction at Okere Falls - a joint venture between Rotorua Rafting's Sam Sutton and Māori landowners from Ngāti Hinerangi-Ngāti Hinekiri.
Of those submissions, more than half opposed the application, with 25 against, 19 for and one neutral.
However, Sutton is confident the venture can still get off the ground and would be an "amazing opportunity to do some really good work in the community".
A hearing will be held in Rotorua on October 21 for the nine submitters who wish to be heard. The venue is yet to be confirmed.
Okere Adventures applied to set up a 1km-long zipline activity within the Okere Scenic Reserve after more than a year of consultation and planning.
The application is for six ziplines that will be reached from 12 platforms. Tours of up to 10 people will run from 8am to 5pm, weather permitting, seven days a week.
The guided tours, which will take about three hours, will progress through the forest at ground and canopy levels and will follow a walking trail and the zipline.
The application states the zipline will not affect the view of the waterfalls or river from any of the existing viewpoints on the walking path.
Okere Adventures says its primary focus is on sustainable tourism and enhancing the scenic reserve, and the proposed venture will have limited impact on the environment.
No major earthworks will be needed, with the ziplines designed to work with the natural landform and any minor adverse ecological effects will be mitigated by intensive, sustained pest control and indigenous revegetation.
As well as environmental considerations, the application states the ziplines have been designed to avoid disturbing culturally-significant sites and internationally-sourced zipline technology will reduce noise pollution by 66 per cent.
However, many of the points raised in the application have been questioned by submitters.
Kaituna Cascades co-owner Peter Lodge cited several reasons he was against the project, including overuse of the reserve, the existence of established zipline tours that could be used instead, increased traffic and potential adverse effects on the flora and fauna in the area.
"I'm all for increased tourism in the Okere Falls area but not in the Okere Reserve on this scale. Let's keep it a scenic reserve and not an adventure playground."
Andrew Blackford, a chartered professional engineer who helped design and construct two Canopy Tours ziplines and is a shareholder of Rotorua Canopy Tours, opposed the application for various technical reasons.
He rebuffed claims that the ziplines would only be visible in three locations and asked whether consideration had been made to the zipline's position and visibility when weighted by a person.
Blackford also raised issues with the appropriateness of the platform design and standard and health and safety implications, particularly where ziplines crossed over public walking trails, which he said needed to be considered in more detail.
Federated Mountain Clubs, Forest & Bird, Wet n Wild Rafting and Rotorua Adventures Ltd also opposed the application for reasons including possible disruption to native, rare and endangered species, lack of rigorous assessment of the proposal's impact and underestimation of the noise it would create.
"Wildlife could be disturbed by construction activities, vegetation clearance for paths and zipline infrastructure, and by increased human activity within the forest and river environment as part of a new, large-scale tourism operation," Forest & Bird central North Island regional manager Rebecca Stirnemann wrote as part of her submission.
Other opposing submitters feared the new venture would "open the door to others" and eventually turn the area into a "fun park". Many expressed concerns the impact on the area, visually, aurally and environmentally, had been downplayed.
But those in support of the application said the proposal was well thought out and would have positive impacts for the community and environment through its support of pest control and revegetation.
Many praised Sutton for his dedication and love of the local community, saying if permitted, his new venture would only provide benefits to the area.
Maraea Te Wairangi Grant supported the application for its all-round benefits, "specifically the low environmental impact but also environmental gain from revegetation".
Whitewater kayak enthusiast Joe Anderson supported the application because he believed the venture would raise the public profile of his sport.
Denise Martin said Okere Falls was already a tourism destination and the proposed zipline would encourage more jobs and develop existing businesses.
"People were unhappy when the river was first rafted, now this industry draws tens of thousands of visitors to Rotorua each year."
Mariette Derksen supported the application because it would "offer another activity in the shoulder seasons for Rotorua" and provide employment opportunities and benefit existing businesses.
In response to the submissions, Sutton told the Rotorua Daily Post he had faith in the application.
"What annoys me the most is the questioning of the integrity of what we're trying to do. The river has been the biggest influence on my life, I would not try to do something that could negatively impact it. Our main goal is to enhance it.
"This has gone far beyond just a commercial venture and has the potential to set the standard for what tourism attractions can do for the wider community."
Sutton appreciated how much people loved the Kaituna River but believed some of the opposing submissions were shortsighted.
"To not give this venture a chance is somewhat selfish because it will give us the ability to enhance and protect Okere Falls, making it a better place for us, our children and our grandchildren."
The full submissions can be read here .