The first steps toward a new co-governance model for the Tokorangi Forest, that includes the famous Redwood Forest and Rotorua's mountain bike trails, have begun.
The Rotorua Lakes Council voted unanimously to go ahead with the setting up of a co-governance model with the owners of the Tokorangi Forest - CNI Iwi Holdings - at a meeting of the council's Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee today. The model would allow for the opening up of future commercial opportunities in the forest after the current management licence, operated by the council, has been described as inflexible and failing to allow scope for new activities and increased commercial returns.
Councillors agreed that the "committee notes that the council is currently the licensee for the Tokorangi Forest and CNI Iwi Holdings is the owner".
That, "the committee notes that the treaty settlement with the CNI Iwi Collective provided for further discussions over management arrangements for Tokorangi, including exploring cultural and commercial opportunities" and "the committee recommend to council that an initial co-governance arrangement with CNI Iwi Holdings over the Tokorangi Forest be established along the lines set out in this report".
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The iwi group owns Whakarewarewa/Tokorangi Block (Tokorangi) and the council's license expires in 2043 and unless agreed otherwise, wil revert back to iwi ownership after that date.
Tokorangi includes the area known affectionately as 'the Redwoods', though it is a wider area that includes commercial plantation forest.
CNI Iwi Land Management general manager Alamoti Te Pou said the current system where both organisations had to agree before anything was done in the forest was a problem and having one board to oversee the forest would be a practical way to solve that problem.
The council's sport and recreation manager Rob Pitkethley said the block was of huge significance to Rotorua and "enhancing its infrastructure and visitor opportunities" had been identified as one of the council's top priorities.
He said, at a minimum, the visitor centre was dated and no longer fit for receiving more than 100,000 visitors a year and that Long Mile Rd needed work and there was insufficient parking.
"There is also considerable interest from several small sustainable businesses to establish a presence aimed at enhancing the visitor experience and there is a need to consider how best to accommodate the growing mountain biking users."