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Police in Rotoura have launched an investigation after work to protect and restore a beautiful geothermal landmark in Waiotapu was destroyed by vandals at the weekend.
The Waiotapu Hot and Cold Pools on the Waiotapu Loop Road has long been a hot spot for locals and tourists. Increased visitor numbers over the past few years has resulted in damage to the banks and vegetation as well as significant littering.
This led to Ngati Tahu-Ngati Whaoa Runanga Trust and the Department of Conservation (DoC) developing a restoration plan for the area.
Over recent months degraded areas have been isolated to help them recover from the foot-traffic and to allow vegetation re-growth.
DoC took responsibility for the remedial work to the banks, fences and construction of paths while the Runanga Trust Environment Department took responsibility for the signage with historical information and guidelines on respecting the site and organising a planting day with Reporoa College.
Environmental Liaison Officer for the Runanga Trust, Evelyn Forrest, said: "Last Wednesday 12 students from the college got stuck in to give the area some tender loving care. It was a highly successful day spent clearing all of the litter and planting 100 native seedlings."
All their hard graft was tarnished on Saturday night (22, September) when the area was vandalised. Police believe that whoever is responsible used a chainsaw to cut through wooden railings, including a bridge railing creating a safety risk. Of even greater concern is the hacking down of 10 prostrate kanuka trees. These are a nationally threatened species with some at least 50 years old.
"It is a privilege to have a place as special as the Hot and Cold Pools and it is heartbreaking to see the land and the hard work that has gone into protecting that land treated with such disrespect.
"These projects are part of the iwi plan to protect and restore natural and cultural values to our lands and we work closely with others such as the Department of Conservation, regional councils and Te Arawa River Iwi Trust to keep our heritage alive. It is needless vandalism and those responsible need to be held to account."
Anyone with information relevant to this investigation is asked to contact Rotorua Police on 07 349 9400. Alternatively information can be provided anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
Police media enquiries should be referred to Communications Manager Kim Perks on 027 234 8256. Evelyn Forrest, Environmental Liaison Officer for the Ngati-Tahu Whaoa Runanga Trust can be contacted on 07 366 6177 or 021 0812 5304.