Omanawa Falls access mooted

Council is discussing opening Omanawa Falls to public access. Photo: Supplied.

Opening up the Omanawa Falls to public access with the construction of $2.7million of new tracks and stairs is being considered today by the Tauranga City Council's Economic Development and Investment Committee.

Public access to the falls is currently denied by the council, which doesn't prevent people from attempting the descent to the pool at the base of the falls, sometimes with disastrous results.

In March 2013, a 17-year-old girl fell and received pelvic injuries. In April 2013, a 20-year-old woman received head injuries after falling.

A 38-year-old father received serious back and shoulder injuries and his 12-year-old son received serious leg injuries in January 2015.

A 36-year-old French tourist had to be rescued after falling 10m off a cliff in October 2016, and in February this year another person was rescued after being injured in a fall.

Because of the health and safety risks, the falls are closed to the public. But keeping the public out is an ongoing issue. In spite of the ‘no entry' and ‘warning' signs, people continue to access the site, often leading to injury.

The main access to the bottom of the falls is via steep stairs through a hand-dug tunnel, says Tauranga City Council parks and environment team leader Warren Aitken.

This access is blocked by a large steel door. A second access via steps up to where the old transformer was situated, then onto an unformed informal track is also blocked off by a steel fence and signage.

An increasing number of people are attempting to access to the bottom of the falls via the informal track ignoring the danger and warning signs. The informal track is very steep and unsafe in many areas and uses existing stair/ladder structures that are in poor condition.

Council staff repair and re-secure to restrict access, as access ways are vandalised or created.

Today's decision is expected to be a recommendation to Council to support in principle inclusion in year 2019/20 of the 2018-28 Long Term Plan, $2.7m for upgrades to the Omanawa Falls Power Station Reserve.

Instead of trying to keep people out, the council is instead going to capitalise on the tourism potential of the spectacular falls, and the historic power station.

The recommended project includes: the design and construction of a staircase and landing structure that provides access to the bottom of the falls, a boardwalk and track at the base of the falls, replacement of the power station viewing platform, and land purchase and construction of a car parking area and new toilet facilities plus signage park furniture and an access gate.

“Once the infrastructure is in place, Omanawa Falls would be transformed from a hazardous escapade into an international quality visitor experience that supports additional tourism ventures and visitor spend in the region,” says Warren.

A survey undertaken by security at Omanawa Falls over 11 days in January and February 2017 showed the highest day recording was 155 visitors, while the average number of visitors per day was 59.

“These visitor numbers are particularly significant when it is taken into account that the site is closed, and there is high security fencing and prominent signage installed to keep visitors from an unsafe site,” says Warren.

“Omanawa Falls is becoming increasingly popular due to general word of mouth and the increase in the use of social media such as Facebook and Youtube. Programmes such as The Bachelor have also contributed to the popularity of the area.”

Tauranga City Council owns and maintains the 5.6ha Omanawa Falls Power Station Reserve which includes Omanawa Falls, a Historic Power Station, access track, and native bush planting.

Formal access to the Reserve is provided via an unsealed road leading to a small section of walking track that overlooks the Omanawa Falls, acting as a viewing platform.


Only half the story

Posted on 18-10-2017 20:16 | By Sg1nz

The story doesn't do a good job to explaining what the cost covers. Locals are sick of all the cars parking on the street. Up to 60 at any one time. So the cost is:- New car park- Road improvements- Engineering reports - to ensure that the rock face can take the load of the stairs- Ten flights of steps- A boardwalk- A new path from the car park to stairs- A new viewing platform - Updated system to access the power station- SecurityPlus the cost to rate payers will be less as the corporate funding and national Tourisum funding is already being sort. So would be closer to $1m. That's an ROI of 24 months based on spend and lower if there was pay access.

@ Angels

Posted on 18-10-2017 10:05 | By MISS ADVENTURE

Agreee on the price, but of course anythign Council does costs heaps without any reason or justification whatsoever. Perhaps we should make a call, get Murray Guy to do it, get the job done. Last time he did that showed up just how much TCC gets itself willingly ripped off. The Concrete stairs project was to cost some $7,000 instead of Councils scheme of $80,000. Applying that same common sense approach would mean $2.7m(more like $3.5-4m) would drop to $236,000. But of course you can not have a huge pile of officials running around trying to look self important when there are just a few pennys left to squabble over.


Posted on 18-10-2017 09:30 | By rogue

Caveman & Angels are both right, why should it cost the taxpayer this much?I have a more economic suggestion. PD. Get the crims in with a bucket & spade to dig out the tracks & stairs, slave labour that gets a whipping if they slack off. Might be just the incentive not to be involved in crime in the future. Now let the PC club dive in.

Excess would be great

Posted on 18-10-2017 07:36 | By Angels

Making it more excessively is a great idea. BUT the cost are outrageous. Someone is blowing smoke up our back sides to say it costs that much. Come on someone is really making HUGE money. Time to get realistic on costings

Well, another $2.7 MILLION - of Council spending

Posted on 18-10-2017 00:19 | By The Caveman

Seems that the whole area is a Health & Safety risk. Rather than opening it up to the public, the area should be secured to a better level than at present - probably for a lot less than $2.7 MILLION.

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