A Rotorua mountain bike operator is calling for local riders to respect the wishes of the owners of Lake Rotokākahi (Green Lake) following their "drastic" action to close trails near the sacred lake.
Rotorua mountain bike trails have been closed near Lake Rotokākahi, which is privately owned by iwi, to protect its tapu status. There is a permanent rāhui on the lake which means swimming, fishing and boating are not allowed.
The lake's small island, Motutawa, is the burial ground of many Māori ancestors, and Rotokākahi is overseen by a Board of Control.
The board last week told media the site was being disrespected by visitors not following the rules and it called for the closure of nearby tracks.
Most of the trails were built by Rotorua Trails Trust volunteers and this week the trust announced on Facebook it was closing the trails leading to Lakefront Rd, including the bottom sections of Te Ahi Manawa and Kung Fu Walrus, as well as Lakefront Rd itself.
Recreational users of the trails are upset, with many runners, walkers and mountain bikers commenting on social media that most locals know the rules and respected the wishes of local iwi.
They say the actions of a few were spoiling it for the others.
Tak and Tu Mutu of Rotorua Bike Rotorua said in a Facebook post Rotokākahi was a special place to them.
"It is where our grandmother and uncle are both buried as well as many others both before and after them," the post said.
They said the lake itself was once used as an urupa by both Tūhourangi and Ngati Tu and today iwi 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."
Tak Mutu told the Rotorua Daily Post he supported the intent of the drastic move, which aimed to keep bathers out of the lake.
"I would like to see the trails reopened and people use the tracks as they are intended."
When asked who he thought was to blame for breaking the rules, he said it was likely a mix of recreational users, people unaware of the status of the lake and people who had no respect.
The Mutu's Facebook post said the trust was "simply trying to protect a taonga that is both legally and spiritually entrusted to them".
"At the moment people from both sides are taking matters into their own hands which is not ideal. All we ask is that people respect the wishes of the owners of Rotokākahi so that they don't have to take the law into their own hands to get the message across."