We need to talk about illegal trail building.
Illegal trails, community trails, unsanctioned trails… whatever you want to call them, they are something we all know about, and regardless of your personal view, here’s what you need to know.
Part of why the Rotorua MTB Club was originally formed and why the Rotorua Trails Trust exists today, is to facilitate building trails with full landowner consent and a long-term strategy for keeping them open and maintained to the correct standard.
The land is privately owned and the use of it is a privilege. It is critical to keep a good relationship with the landowners, forest managers and stakeholders in the forest, so that we can keep the trail network open to the public and continue to see it enhanced and developed. That relationship is totally dependent on how we, the users of this forest, utilise and manage the trail system in THEIR forest on THEIR land.
So today, we’d like to share an overview of the forest ownership and management structure, as well as communicating the official process for pitching new trail ideas.
However, firstly, please note: any future illegal trail building will result in trespass from the forest and potential prosecution.
How it works - the forest management structure:
We know it can be challenging to understand how the forest structure works - it is complex. So please see attached diagram.
How trails are approved and built
1. The Rotorua Trails Trust collates new trail ideas and concepts from the community. Please submit any ideas you have by emailing the Rotorua Trails Trust at firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Every six months, the Trails Trust presents the new trail ideas to the Whakarewarewa and Titokorangi Forest Recreation Management Committee (made up of Central North Island Iwi Holdings Limited (CNIIHL), Mana whenua, Timberlands & Rotorua Lakes Council) to apply for formal permission is applied for.
3. The Whakarewarewa and Titokorangi Forest Recreation Committee makes its consideration on whether a new trail idea is approved based on factors including cultural values/impact, safety and environmental effect.
4. After a new trail concept is approved, Timberlands works closely with stakeholders and trail building contractors to ensure that new trail construction does not harm the standing tree crop. This includes selecting appropriate trees for removal (a cost of the track build), education on pruning and root health, and assistance with mapping for trail alignment.
5. Trail building begins.
The Rotorua Lakes Council is mandated by the landowners and forest managers to be responsible for and manage all recreational activity on their behalf. This is anything that’s not forestry operations and roading. Which broadly relates to permits, leases, concessions and events. The Council is responsible for the safety of the public, maintenance and development of tracks and assets including the oversight of the Rotorua Trails Trust, the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club and other activities. The Rotorua Lakes Council is the go between to ensure what’s happening in the forest is to the landowners and forest managers approval.
To be clear, the Rotorua MTB Club, Mountain Bike Rotorua, the Rotorua Trails Trust and Descend Rotorua DO NOT have any authority to approve or sanction trails in the Whakarewarewa Forest.
Recent illegal trail building and its impact
Recently, there have been a number of illegal trails built that are unsustainable from an environmental perspective and this activity has significantly damaged the tree crop. Whether you feel the need to add to the trail network, or you simply want to rearrange the current trails into a new form to suit you, this is not allowed.
To summarise, there are NO grey areas. No trail building or trail alterations are permitted without going through the formal process.
If you wish to discuss this further or have any questions please contact the Rotorua Trails Trust or the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club for more information. We may not have all the answers, so please be kind! Remember we are volunteer organisations, and will do our best to find the answers you are looking for.