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Economic impact of riding in Rotorua quantified

Casey Brown at Crankworx in Rotorua earlier this year. Photo: Fraser Britton.

People who ride in Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa forest contribute between $30m and $50m in spending annually to the local economy, according to a new study.

Between 2.5 per cent and 5 per cent of the total spend in the district is by visitors and about three quarters of that visitor spend is by those who come to Rotorua specifically to ride in Whakarewarewa Forest.

This spend contributes an estimated 200 to 350 FTE jobs which equates to between $10m and $20m in income.

The findings are included in an economic impact study undertaken to estimate the contribution of the forest trails to the Rotorua economy.

It captures the value of rides in Whakarewarewa Forest only, not the full value of mountain biking to the district, and will be used as a baseline on which to build in future.

The study estimated there are about 230,000 rides (by visitors and locals) in the forest per year, based on data collected from four access points. Due to the multiple access points to Rotorua’s forest trail network it is not possible to know the true total number of rides so estimates are conservative.

Visitors who ride in the forest are spending on items like food and drink, shuttle bus tickets, bike and equipment hire, bike servicing and repairs, clothing, accommodation and tourism attractions and activities.

The study excludes major events and does not capture the impact of other recreational use (eg walkers and runners using the forest trails) or the social, health or cultural wellbeing benefits of the forest. The study also does not capture the value of the Rotorua Trails Trust which manages the volunteer efforts of maintaining the trail network for the benefit of locals and visitors.

“The overall benefits and economic contribution of mountain biking and/or the forest will be much bigger but this study provides a good indication of the forest’s importance to the district, using actual data captured,” says deputy mayor Dave Donaldson, who leads Council’s Economic Development portfolio.

“Mountain biking has become synonymous with Rotorua – it’s continued to grow in popularity to become not only central to the local lifestyle, but also a key contributor to our visitor economy.

“The economic impact study gives us a baseline for future impact assessment and will help guide decisions and planning for continued recreational use of Whakarewarewa Forest by all user groups.

“The potential for more business opportunities is a key focus of new co-governance arrangements with iwi and general master planning for recreation in the forest, along with retaining the forests’ special environment,” Cr Donaldson says.

The estimates in the study are for the period 1 March 2017 to 28 February 2018.

The assessment used counters at four forest access points and surveyed mountain bikers about their spending, then used multipliers to estimate the flow-on economic impact. Users who were surveyed included riders of all ages and abilities and included families, locals and visitors from both around New Zealand and overseas.

The report was presented to elected members today [Thursday 10 July 2018] during the Strategy, Policy & Finance Committee meeting and will be used in support of an application for government funding for proposed forest developments.

Proposed forest developments, which are included in Council’s 2018-28 Long-term Plan, would see improvements to Long Mile Road, the Redwoods i-site and carparking, and the creation of a new recreation hub at another entry to Whakarewarewa Forest along Tarawera Road (between Okareka Loop Road and Lake Tikitapu).

Council is preparing detailed business cases for both the forest enhancements and development of Rotorua’s lakefront as part of applications for funding from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF). Council has received $811,000 from the fund to prepare the business cases.

View the full economic impact study at THIS LINK on Council’s website.

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