By: Leah Tebbutt

More than 100 jobs and millions of dollars of private investment have been promised for the Whakarewarewa Forest development, new details have revealed.

Design concepts and investment and job projections for the development were revealed at yesterday’s Rotorua Lakes Council meeting.

The project is expected to create 133 jobs, adding to the 470 jobs projected for the Lakefront redevelopment project.

In addition to the jobs, the 13 development sites around the forest are expected to create $68.35 million in private investment.

District revitalisation strategic development manager Portia McKenzie told councillors the development aimed to get investment coming back into the community, but the council also wanted to make sure residents could use the area: “So that it’s safe, it’s a great place to play, that we’ve got that easy lifestyle and those great opportunities to play in the forest.”

A new carpark on Long Mile Rd will add more than 60 carparks to the existing parks and plans for road also include bus parking, a turn-around bay, off-road walking tracks and lighting at night.

“At the moment as you go down Long Mile, a lot of people walk on the roads. It is fairly unsafe down there.” McKenzie said.

Work has also started in a new area labelled Forest Hub 2 along Tarawera Rd, near Okareka Loop Rd.

More than 20 of the planned 200 carparks have been built and the area will also have grassed areas for events and toilet and shower facilities.

Work is scheduled to begin on a visitors’ centre and cafe in 2020.

An Under the Tree Walk and a play area were inspired by feedback from the community.

“A lot of the feedback we received was talking around how we wanted to stay here longer and more opportunities to play,” McKenzie said.

Whakarewarewa Forest Development cultural adviser Kingi Biddle said the return of values and respect for the forest that was embedded into the design was exciting.

“The messages that we teach our whānau when they go in the forest is one of respect, is one of environmental values, is one of cultural values.”

Kingi said, by educating people, the council had an opportunity to ensure the Whakarewarewa Forest was not destroyed like similar environment attractions around the world.

“The actual design concept has a certain wind that blows through it, like the wind that blows through the forest and those winds are the values, the ha [breath] of respect.

“This is just not an iwi story. This is our story and we are doing it together.” Biddle said.

Up to $7.5 million from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund has gone towards the Whakarewarewa Forest, matched by council money.

Projected benefits

  • Expected to double the number of mountain biking jobs
  • More training and development partnerships for local jobs
  • Value for locals
  • Double the number of visitors per annum
  • Improved value as tourism destination
  • Improved iwi land development and value

Source: YUDU

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