'It's not a fun park': Local iwi close part of Lake Rotokākahi cycle trail

The Māori guardians of Lake Rotokākahi have taped off the picturesque destination from the public, saying they need to restore and protect the mana of the area.

A cycle trail has drawn an increasing number of visitors to the Bay of Plenty lake, also known as Green Lake - and now mana whenua want it closed.

It's not hard to see why the spot is a drawcard to visitors from both Aotearoa and overseas, but Lake Rotokākahi is sacred to the people of Tūhourangi and Tumatawera. 

"It's the last bastion of tribal land we have that's untouched, unspoiled and we want to keep it that way," Rotokākahi Control Board Chair Wally Lee told Newshub.

The introduction of Te Kōtukutuku Mountain Biking Trail in 2018 has seen an influx of people to the area, accessing the lake.

There is some real Instagram potential for visitors - Lake Rotokākahi's beauty has been splashed on social media and tourism websites - but local iwi say the images go against Māori protocol.

"They're acting like this is a fun park, it's not a fun park and it never has been," Peter Moke of the Rotokākahi Control Board says.

The iwi are upset that visitors are swimming, fishing and poaching game in the area.

Moke has taped off part of the trail as a result and it has reduced numbers. He has also been patrolling the area.

"Political layering has enabled this to happen. Essentially, we want the trails to close," Lee says.

That would bring an end of sightseers to the pristine paradise.

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