New twists, views and racing adventure awaits at Skyline Rotorua luge with the opening of its new tracks.
The tourist attraction invested about $6 million in upgrades over the past five years, which included three new tracks, 430m of tunnel lighting and 12,000 native trees planted.
The project has been constructed over the past 14 months, with 7.4km of new track laid in total, including four new corkscrews and four newly-lit tunnels.
A blessing and official opening were held early this morning and were attended by local leaders, Skyline staff and Ngāti Whakaue.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick cut the ribbon alongside Skyline chairwoman Jan Hunt.
Hunt said it was a very special day.
"The most important thing is we have some changes and updates that aren't in any of our other luge parks ... it's like a new luge park, it's brand new."
She said the pandemic had impacted visitor numbers and the business had questioned whether it should be cautious with investment.
"But we said 'no, this is our chance to upgrade'. So we were always positive about Rotorua and positive about this site and the numbers that would come."
Work had not quite finished but Hunt said only last-minute touch-ups remained and the big chunks were done.
The process had been longer than expected and it had been "a tough time to get through".
Chadwick said as border restrictions eased she was heartened by the enthusiasm and grit shown by the tourism industry.
"To pick yourselves up, invest and get going.
"Those who have survived, cheers to you."
Ngāti Whakaue kaumātua Kingi Biddle kicked off the opening and said he could remember when he visited as a young boy and saw it as a place of exhilaration.
"The beautiful thing about a fast luge is that you get exhilaration but the other thing is you leave a gift. Mine was half of my knee."
Cultural adviser Mihaere Kirby gifted a new te reo kupu (word) for the luge - Rūhā.
"Rūhā is the new name we have given for luge."
The kupu stems from rū, meaning the rumbling earth, such as it feels when you are riding the luge, and hā, the breath of life, such that you enjoy when you are on the luge.
Skyline Rotorua general manager Andrew Jensen said the past couple of years had been challenging for tourism operators across Aotearoa and it appreciated the support from locals.
"There is no doubt that domestic tourism has kept us going — mentally and physically — through this tough time.
"In turn, we're focused on bringing new innovations and keeping our tracks fresh so they'll keep coming back to see us."
He said they were very excited to welcome back international manuhiri (visitors).