A new mountain bike shuttle service will start operating in Whakarewarewa Forest at the beginning of December.
Brothers Tak and Tu Mutu (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Hurunga, Tuhourangi, Ngati Pikiao) have started Mountain Bike Rotorua Shuttles, taking over from Southstar Shuttles Rotorua which has been providing the shuttle service in Rotorua since 2006.
Southstar Shuttles posted on its Facebook page today saying: "Southstar received official notice Friday afternoon from Rotorua Lakes Council that we have been unsuccessful in the closed two-company process RLC have run on behalf of forest landowners CNI Holdings Ltd to continue operating both the public shuttle service and the Landrover charter service past 1 December 2019. We are hugely disappointed with this outcome after 13 years of developing the service."
Tak Mutu said it was an exciting time for Rotorua with a number of high-profile projects either planned or under way, noting the wider Whakarewarewa Forest development being a collaborative project between iwi landowners, CNI Iwi Holdings, Rotorua Lakes Council and PGF, with support from Timberlands Ltd and Red Stag.
Mutu said Mountain Bike Rotorua Shuttles would operate from both the Waipa mountain bike carpark and the new Forest Hub 2 (due for completion in March 2020). It would transport forest users to the turnaround point near the top of Te Tihi-o-Tawa hillside.
"We're excited to take this first step towards realising the full potential of Whakarewarewa Forest which could include partnering with the land owners to develop cultural attractions, sightseeing ventures and a gondola to access the highest points in the forest."
Mutu said the new business would be sponsoring three athletes per year, the first being Tuhoto-Ariki Pene who is a current world cup champion.
He said the big picture was ensuring that Rotorua continued to be a world leading cycling and tourism destination with progression of the collaborative forest developments a key element.
"The forest has evolved to where it is today thanks to building on ideas and developments from innovators in the region including Fred Christensen and his friends who developed the first mountain bike trails, Southstar Shuttles for introducing uplifts to the forest, the 2006 UCI World Mountain Bike Championships and Crankworx as part of the World Tour."
Southstar Shuttles said people who had bought shuttle passes must try to use them before December 1.