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Te Pūtake o Tawa Mountain Bike Trail Entranceway

Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua Case Study, April 2024

Te Pūtake o Tawa Mountain Bike Trail Entranceway

Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua Case Study, April 2024

Source: Rotorua Lakes District Council. Photographer: Graeme Murray
Source: Rotorua Lakes District Council. Photographer: Graeme Murray
  • Owner: CNI Holdings (iwi land)
  • Landowner: CNI Holdings (iwi land)
  • Facility operator: Rotorua Lake Council
  • Project Type: Recreational
  • Date Planning Commenced: June 2018
  • Date Construction Completed: October 2020 (opening)
  • Work started on Forest Hub: June 2019
  • Unveiling of Tūhourangi artworks: October 2021

The vision

Protect and develop the land; empower the people; collectively build the future.

Objective for Hub 2 (Te Pūtake o Tawa): Improve mountain biking amenity and increase the opportunity for commercial access.

The opportunity

The Whakarewarewa Forest mountain biking (MTB) track network has existed since the first trails were built by an enthusiastic group in 1993.  Until recently the area had only one access point - at Waipa, bike hub 1, situated on adjacent private land not belonging to iwi. Pressure on this entrancemeant an alternative access point was needed and something within the forest that would allow the landowners to also benefit from concessionaire activity. 

Forest Hub 2 (now Pūtake o Tawa) provides the following benefits:

  • relieve congestion at bike hub 1
  • improve infrastructure and amenity
  • opportunities for mana whenua
  • investment and/or concession income
  • ability to hold more events
  • diversified activity.


  • Car park with 400 spaces open 6am-9pm seven days a week
  • New toilet and shower block – accessible, all gender toilets. Images here.
  • Bike washing facilities
  • Interpretation and information signage including cultural narrative on place/people
  • Water fountains
  • A range of trails from family-friendly entry-level like the Forest Loop to Grade 5 MTB trails see:
  • Five accessible MTB tracks for adaptive mountain bikes including Forest Loop
  • Event spaces
  • Covered shelter/decking lunch area
  • The Mighty Cray and Mitai café/coffee
  • Mountain Bike Rotorua bike hire
  • Art trail with five pieces created by local Māori artists.


  • Multiple accessible carparks
  • Accessible showers
  • Deck for commercial facilities -accessible – with ramps
  • Accessible track
  • Forest loop regularly used by disabled riders on adaptive MTB
  • Another four adaptive MTB tracks.

The project team


• Rob Pitkethley: Kaihautū Mahi Rēhia | Sport, Recreation and Environment Manager, Rotorua Lakes Council
• Will Bamford: Kaea Hinonga | Senior Project Manager, Rotorua Lakes Council
• Simon Alefosio-Tuck: Recreation Partnerships Advisor, Rotorua Lakes Council
• Jess Dallaway: WSP / Opus
• Blair Clinch: Boffa Miskell
• Kevin Mcguire: Unison Power
• Tu Mutu: Mountain Bike Rotorua
• John More: Kingston


• Higgins Construction: Adrian Tass
• GRB Construction Ltd: Glenn Barry
• Infracore: Tux Tuaki


• CNI Iwi Holdings (a central North Island iwi collective which is a confederation of 8 iwi)
• Tūhourangi Tribal Authority
• Te Komiti Nui O Ngati Whakaue
• Rotorua Lakes Council
• Kaingaroa Timberlands Forest Management

Project overview

Te Pūtake o Tawa Mountain Bike entranceway opened in 2021. It is on the opposite side of the forest to Waipa, giving two access points for walkers, riders and other visitors to the area. 

With a large carpark and facilities, it allows access to the Whakarewarewa Forest mountain biking (MTB) track network and the Whakarewarewa Forest Loop Great Ride. The Whakarewarewa Forest contains over 200km of dedicated MTB tracks and is one of only six International Mountain Biking Association “Gold” Ride Centre Destinations in the world.  The Whakarewarewa Forest Loop is the newest Ngā Haerenga Great Ride of New Zealand.

Initially, the Forest Redevelopment project received $7.09 million of funding from the Provincial Growth Fund. This was used alongside $7.5 million from Rotorua Lakes Council, to enhance the overall forest amenities and experience.  The stage one works included enhancements to access points, the new great ride of the Whakarewarewa Forest loop (32 km around the outside of the forest), cultural foundation enhancements and other elements. The Te Pūtake o Tawa phase of the project was the biggest single cost within the overall development of the forest.

Originally named Hub 2, the new entranceway has been renamed Te Pūtake o Tawa – the base of the hill called Tawa – conceptualised as an access point close to top of the highest point in the forest. From this point people can access all parts of the forest, and in future, there is potential commercial uplift opportunities such as a chairlift or gondolas, to develop and extend the use of the forest.

Mountain Bike Rotorua and Tūhourangi Tribal Authority (TTA) have both been granted concessions to operate within Te Pūtake o Tawa. Mountain Bike Rotorua holds a concession for providing bike hire and retail and TTA operates food and refreshment services.

Partnerships and mana whenua involvement

Partnership with mana whenua already existed prior to this project, and Council has a legal agreement with iwi for managing recreation assets and activities.  Mana whenua involvement is ongoing via the management structure (recreation management group) and actual use/occupation of the land with the concessions, events and whanau activity occurring there.

This project provided an opportunity to drive an economic return for the landowners at the same time as making sure that they can appreciate that recreation is a valued use of their land.

The opportunity to work collectively on enhancing public access and identify potential future benefits for the landowners was explored after Rotorua Lakes Council (RLC) and CNI spent time working on their relationship, and regular meetings about the recreational management of the forest. Providing the CNI landowners with a mechanism to obtain value from the land, not just from growing trees but by using the recreational resource, was an important step to take for when the Crown Forest Licences (for growing trees) expire in 2043 and the use of the land returns fully to the landowners (CNI). Public investment in the land opened the opportunities for making an alternative commercial gain from concessions supporting recreational use of the land.

A key opportunity was for TTA to partner with a combination of other local businesses (Whakarewarewa Village, Mitai, and The Mighty Cray) to provide a food and beverage offering, retail space, and a guided cultural forest experience.

Recreation Partnerships Adviser with RLC Simon Alefioso-Tuck commented:

There has been a lot of MTB tracks that have been built and the use of these tracks continues to be free!  Riders have a right to be in the forest but there isn’t a right to build tracks, so the creation and effective use of the network relies on the generosity of the landowners and their recognition of how important this is to Rotorua. Returning some of this benefit will take a little while to realise as people get used to a different mode of doing things and utilising more of the services offered in the forest.   

This development enabled Tūhourangi to directly benefit from an economic return on a portion of their own land. It provides opportunities for re-connection to the land as whanau and for the telling of stories, and making of art, that relates to the place and its people. 

This is a monumental time for Tūhourangi because it’s the first time since prior to the eruption where we’ve had our own people operating businesses of significant scale on our whenua, particularly within the forest.

I don’t think it can be overstated how good a job (this project) has done in bringing the people back to the land. It’s been an issue we’re grappling with that our city gains $200 million a year from someone else’s land and the land owners get an incredibly small percentage of that benefit…Historically people with flash cars and flash bikes dominated the forest and people who owned the land didn’t feel welcome, now there is the hub (carpark etc) it’s pretty clear who owns it, that we (MTB users) are guests there, and its done an amazing job of bringing people back to the land and forming that connection.

Simon Alefosio-Tuck

A Trail app tells the stories of the forest and iwi (developed by local software developer).

Art trail

Artwork forms part of the project with five taonga which share the kōrero (stories) of tūpuna (ancestors) that are important to Tūhourangi people, mana whenua.

“The five artists are direct descendants of the principal ancestor portrayed at Te Pūtake o Tawa, the Tūhourangi chief - Umukaria, father of Wāhiao and Hinemoa, who are also portrayed here. The other taonga are of Kataore, the pet taniwha that roamed these hills and te kēti, a laser-cut tāniko design.”

“Not only do we have a new forest hub and an additional access point to the forest, but we now have this significant story telling element which will be of huge interest to both locals and manuhiri.”

Mayor Steve Chadwick at unveiling ceremony

Multi-use nature of trails/area

Te Pūtake o Tawa is separate from the Whakarewarewa Forest Loop track, but the Te Pūtake o Tawa carpark provides an important access point to the Loop. Riders and walkers can start at Te Pūtake o Tawa or on the other side of the Loop at Waipa.

The tracks accessible from Te Pūtake o Tawa provide all levels of MTB up to Grade 5, including opportunities for beginners, small children, and families.  Walking tracks are included and a new track is in development.   Wheelchair access to the Forest loop and some other tracks enables a range of users to access the area.

The cultural guided trail and art trail within Te Pūtake o Tawa, provide alternatives for those wishing to understand the cultural value of the area, and for mana whenua to better understand their whakapapa to this place.

Environmental sustainability

Part of the work around Te Pūtake o Tawa involved lease of larger areas of forestry land taken out of commercial forest use. About two thirds of this area will be replanted in native plants and there is more native planting associated with the car park and active water management. The new development has a much lower carbon footprint overall than commercial forestry activity.

The use of the land for supporting public access will likely lead to longer term forestry practices rather than short-term pine forestry which in turn will have more benefit on land use and water quality in the Rotorua caldera.

Ongoing management

Whakarewarewa Forest is iwi land, returned to its original owners in a Treaty of Waitangi settlement in 2006.  The current owners are CNI Iwi holdings; the tree owners who hold a Crown Forest License agreement to manage 3000 ha (Kaingaroa Timberlands management and RLC hold a Crown Forest License for around 600 ha in adjacent block planted mainly in redwoods).

Council, along with mana whenua Tūhourangi, Ngāti Whakaue and Ngā hapu e toru o Ngāti Whakaue, CNI Iwi Land Management Ltd and Kaingaroa Timberlands Management Ltd, make up the Recreational Management Group for the forest which manages recreational activities on CNI Iwi land and makes collective decisions around commercial opportunities linked to the carpark.  

landowners and Crown Forest Licence holders have an agreement that RLC look after recreation in the forest. Te Pūtake o Tawa is operated by the Council because it is a key access point and a hub for concessionaires. There is protected public right of access in legislation. The policy document can be downloaded here.

Ongoing maintenance and development is funded by Council/ratepayers.  Due to the land being owned by iwi, and managed by Council, a formal process must be followed for any trail building or alterations, which is outlined on the Rotorua Mountain Bike website.

Evaluation/User profile

Te Pūtake o Tawa had 213,000 visits in 12 months to March 2023. Of these, 45% percent were walkers and 55% mountain bikers.

Visits to Pūtake o Tawa car park make up 23% of all visits to the forest, and 26% of mountain bike visits to the forest.

Users of Te Pūtake o Tawa include local people, children though to adults, national and international tourists, as well as various clubs and mountain bike organisations. Events held at Te Pūtake include:

  • Tūhourangi whanau days including Kapa haka, BBQs, bouncy castles, the Great Race
  • Mountain bike clubs (including Rotorua MTB Club and Tūhourangi MTB Academy)
  • Event organisers such as the local triathlon club Rotorua - Association of Triathlon and Multisport (RATS) run a series with some events held at Te Pūtake
  • Mountain Bike Enduro series – one of them based at Te Pūtake o Tawa
  • Adapt MTB (A community for adaptive mountain bikers, family & friends to share, encourage & advocate)


Council is managing an investment of $14.59 million to enhance the forest amenity and improve the experience for all users.

Approximately $1.2m within the total funding package was tagged for cultural foundation work that included Artworks at Tawa, Titokorangi Drive, and on the Forest Loop, and the cultural story content creation in the Forest Loop App.


TOTAL $4,5303,138
Unison Power supply/Transformers etc $      315,000
Higgins - Construction $   3,017,347
Consultants (15k Landscape, 40k Civil, 7k QS) $        62,615
Other (Signage, Consenting etc) $        23,176
Toilet Block $      565,000
Engineering time $        70,000
Alternate Forestry entrance $      250,000
Final costs (just billed) $      200,000

Maintenance annual costs

  • Infracore costs: $33,150 dollars per year comprised of:
  • Janitorial: $11,322
  • Maintenance: $21,828

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