A study has been approved to look into the potential of a trail up Mt Tarawera and the surrounding area that could see it become one of the next national "Great Walks".
Rotorua MP Todd McClay announced a feasibility study would be undertaken in the next few weeks, in conjunction with local iwi.
It will look into a three-day walk that would allow trampers to walk up Mt Tarawera to its summit and provide guided walks and a range of accommodation options.
The study will consider the economic benefits, cultural aspects and any environmental sensitivities of a proposed track.
Mr McClay said he was thrilled to have helped secure funding for the study.
"Mt Tarawera is New Zealand's most infamous volcano set against one of our most beautiful backdrops.
"I have absolutely no doubt that a managed alpine track would be a huge drawcard for domestic and international visitors alike.
"The track could be the jewel in Rotorua's tourism crown. It would create jobs and offer significant economic benefits for Rotorua."
Mr McClay said the concept had the potential to become one of New Zealand's great walks.
"We believe there is a powerful story to be told on Mt Tarawera and this could link natural beauty, culture and history with an exciting tourism initiative that would benefit the entire region."
He said the results of the study would be released later this year.
Te Mana o Ngati Rangitihi Trust chairman Leith Comer said the study was the first step in assessing whether the concept of an alpine track would meet the aspirations of the iwi.
"As the kaitiaki (guardians) of Mt Tarawera, this maunga (mountain) is of huge cultural significance to our iwi."
Mr Comer said the initial idea was to have the walking track run from The Landing, using the existing trail to Hot Water Beach, where just around the corner the iwi owned land at Te Ariki where it could set up new accommodation options.
From Te Ariki people would walk to Tapahoro campsite for night two of the walk and then to Tarawera Falls, over the hill to Lake Okataina, or out to Kawerau.
"We see the project as an opportunity to share our special place with others, ensuring it is appreciated and looked after for generations to come. We would also hope that it enhances recognising and understanding of Ngati Rangitihi history and culture."
He said the concept was still "in its early days", but was to have people pay for the experience with opportunities for fully guided walks, but he did not envision allowing "open slather" for tourists wanting to walk up to the mountain's summit.
"It would have to be done in a controlled way as to protect the mountain. We don't want it turning into something like the Tongariro Crossing with hundreds of people using it every day."
Trust member Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said with many people already coming to Rotorua to experience the great outdoors and the region's natural beauty the idea was a natural fit.
"But this has to be balanced with the cultural significance of these sites.
Lake Tarawera "Great Walk"
- Funding for a feasibility study for a Tarawera "Great Walk" has been approved
- It will find out if a three-day "alpine" walk around the lake will be possible
- It will look at the possibility of new camp sites and accommodation options
- Controlled, guided access of the summit would be part of the study
- The trail would go from The Landing to Hot Water Beach/Te Ariki and on to Tapahoro camp site to Tarawera Falls/Humphries Bay or over to Lake Okataina