The Rotorua Lakefront Redevelopment re-establishes the landscape values of this national taonga; a new relationship with the lake edge is under construction for future generations, a relationship that respects the lake and enhances the wairua and mauri of this shared cultural landscape.
Lake Rotorua is a taonga—a highly prized natural resource—for those that live on its shores, the city that has grown along its edge, and the nation treasures it as a destination. Building on the 2012 Rotorua Lakefront Development Framework (by Wraight & Associates), Isthmus was commissioned to produce an ambitious master plan that would tell Rotorua’s stories and presents its unique cultural identity in a high-quality environment, on a par with other internationally renowned waterfronts.
The master plan helped to secure significant funding from the Provincial Growth Fund. The $40 million Lakefront revitalisation project is an important, multi-year project intended to ensure ongoing progress towards Rotorua’s 2030 vision. As one of the Rotorua Lakes Council’s “5 Big Moves” the development is focused on creating a world-class lakefront experience, a destination that enhances both the land and the lake.
All the design elements of the project have been developed in consultation with Ngāti Whakaue and Te Arawa Lakes Trust, guided by both Rotorua Lakes Council’s steering group and a project advisory group alongside the team’s cultural design coordinator Karl Johnstone. The lakefront redevelopment reflects a shared vision that is enriched by the generosity of shared knowledge, where Isthmus’s role has been to listen and “give form to” the key principles provided.
“The concept is formed through adjacencies—the adjacency of people and place; the adjacency of land and water; the adjacency of the taha wairua (intangible dimension) and taha tīnana (physical dimension); and the adjacency of tangata whenua (local people) and manuhiri (visitors). At a physical level, the forms of the constructed elements, the boardwalk, bridges, and landform terraces reflect the natural features dramatizing the tension between the arc of bay and the gentle projection of the headlands.”
—Karl Johnstone, Haumi
The master plan has develops a narrative unique to, and reflective of Rotorua, and creates opportunities for future commercial development. The connection between land and water is re-established through both formal and informal lake edge conditions. This allows the public to reengage with the water and access the lake for recreation while clearing away the clutter of sheds to simplify the edge and reveal the significance of Mokoia Island.
The old brick lake edge path has been replaced by a 5m wide timber boardwalk that arcs across the bay, joining headland to headland and sweeping out to terminate in the lake at each end. Movement patterns along the boardwalk echo the koura’s migration along the bay below the water. Each end of the boardwalk offers a distinct experience; the western end is active, providing opportunity for waka ama and other recreational water sports, including swimming. The eastern end is a more reflective space that celebrates natural lake character.
A series of bridges, Te Ara Tukutuku—the pathway of waka, provide access to the boardwalk from the surrounding landscape, creating a functional and metaphorical connection between place and whakapapa. Te Ara Tukutuku connect to the water, offering space for sitting and play, observation, and interpretation. On their land side artworks are in development with the local iwi; these vertical elements express the connection to the old lakebed location, standing in the land that once was water.
Construction of the entire lakefront development will be completed across a several stages to ensure that parts of the Lakefront Reserve always remain accessible. The first stage, which involves the construction of the boardwalk and terracing around the lake edge, is currently underway and is scheduled for completion mid 2021. Stages 2, 3 and 4 are also under construction and are set for completion at the end of 2021; they encompass the playground, carparking and new city cycleway connection.
David Irwin, Grant Bailey, Nada Stanish, Travis McGee, Helen Kerr, Zach Barker, Sophie Fisher, Michael Chu,
Rotorua Lakes Council
Tonkin & Taylor
Services Engineering Group (SEG)
Te Arawa Lakes Trust
HEB Construction Ltd (Stage 1)
Campbell Contracting (Stages 2, 3 & 4)