Without the vision and determination of one man, Rotorua's Whakarewarewa Forest, which generates millions of dollars in revenue every year, may have never opened to the public.
Neill Cooper QSM was that man. He died peacefully in Rangiora on Tuesday night, aged 93, leaving a legacy that will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come.
Speaking with the Rotorua Daily Post, Neill Cooper's son, John Cooper, said his father spent his whole life working in forestry, gaining his qualifications in England, before immigrating to New Zealand in 1956.
"Dad became the forest manager in Rotorua in the late 1960s. We lived on Long Mile Rd so it was a quick 100m across the road and we were in the forest. For my sisters and I, Whakarewarewa was our playground.
"My friends and I would ride our bikes, trap possums, my sister would ride her horse, it was really cool for us growing up.
"It was during this time he became interested in turning the forest into multi-use. Prior to that, you had to have a written permit to enter the forest.
"Perhaps it was seeing us kids playing in there, as well as his work in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, which was multi-use, that sowed the seed of what Whakarewarewa could become if it was opened up to the public."
But Neill Cooper's vision was initially met with opposition, with his head office firm in the opinion that Whakarewarewa Forest was a state forest to be used solely for production.
"Dad was a very determined character. It would take a strong argument to dissuade him from what he saw as a good idea.
"So, he ignored head office and did it anyway and of course it became a very successful model for other forests."
It was because of this determination, Whakarewarewa Forest was opened to the public in December 1975.
John Cooper said his father recognised the unique asset Rotorua had in having Whakarewarewa right on the city's boundary.
"You don't see that anywhere else. It's right there. Dad always took great care to make sure the forest wasn't slaughtered for timber, that it kept its character. He always saw the value of what was there when others didn't."
Neill Cooper left Rotorua in the late 1970s to take up the position of chief fire control officer in Wellington.
His long career in forestry also saw him write legislation for the protection of forests from fire and disease, for which he received his Queen's Service Medal.
In 2016, Neill Cooper returned to Rotorua for an afternoon tea with the mayor and deputy mayor to acknowledge what he had done for the city by opening up the forest.
There, he was presented with a framed photo of Whakarewarewa Forest which his son said he proudly hung in his room at the Bainswood Rest Home until his death.
"Dad was a modest man, he would never talk about what he had done unless somebody asked but I do think he was quietly proud of what he achieved in Rotorua.
"When he returned, he was blown away by how big the forest had got and how important it had become to Rotorua."
Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson said he was sorry to hear of Neill Cooper's death but he had left a "fabulous legacy for future generations to enjoy the health and wellness benefits of getting out in nature".
"The attitudes of agencies managing these spaces have changed immensely and that is largely thanks to people like Neill who was a leader in that regard.
"In Rotorua, we are incredibly lucky the current landowners of the forest continue to happily permit public recreation.
"Neill changed things for the better, his is a legacy everybody should strive for, being able to leave the world in a better place."
Redwoods Treewalk co-founder and director Bruce Thomasen said the forest was an awesome asset to the city and it was hard to imagine that it was locked to the public as recently as the 1970s.
"It's a very spiritual and relaxing place for residents and visitors. It took the initiative and future thinking of Neill Cooper to see what the forest could become and because of that, we have this natural playground at our fingertips."
A funeral service will be held for Neill Cooper at Lamb and Haywood Chapel in Rangiora at 10am tomorrow.