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Isthmus unveils a brand-new design for Rotorua’s lakefront

Isthmus has revealed a new design for the city’s lakefront that captures the rich history and cultural ties associated with the popular tourism destination. The main feature of the impression is a 600-metre long curved boardwalk that extends out into the water, symbolising the relationship between the city’s people, the land and the water, while marking several historical locations.

The design was developed by Isthmus in consultation with Ngāti Whakaue and Te Arawa Lakes Trust, with guidance from the Rotorua Lakes Council and a project advisory group alongside the team’s cultural design co-ordinator.

Rotorua Lakes Council says the design has been developed with the goal in mind of connecting the lake with the land, the past with the present and the physical with the unseen, and to pay tribute to the history of the region while honouring the beauty of the lake.

The plan’s main attraction is the 600-metre long, five-metre wide boardwalk that stretches across the foreshore of the lake. On one end, the boardwalk is weighted on land, while the on the other, the boardwalk is floating. Its design is intended to let people more closely engage with the water – be it through sliding off one of the terraces for a swim, leaping off a swimming platform on the boardwalk to ‘pop a manu’, or just admiring the view – while also showing the fluidity of the lake’s edge.

The boardwalk also re-orients movement along the slightly jagged lakefront to flow in the natural rounded arc of the bay, with Isthmus saying it traces the movement of human and mahinga kai species as they move along the water’s edge.

“The concept aims to feed the souls of the residents, and inspire visitors. It builds on what is Rotorua.”

The western end is intended to be the ‘active end’ for waka ama and other water sports, while also having viewing and swimming platforms to jump off, while the eastern end is styled as a more ‘contemplative space’ where the natural setting of the lake can be enjoyed.

The boardwalk also features Te Ara Tukutuku – or the pathway of waka. The light bridge structures cut through between the terraced shoreline and the floating boardwalk, and are designed to resemble waka resting on the shore, giving people an alternate way of entering and exiting the boardwalk.

Other notable aspects of the design include terraces that help people enter the lake for swimming in the central area, as well as a variety of new play space sinspired by the cultural stories of Rotorua and its natural surroundings, such as bracken fern climbing frames and oversized gourd (pots) that can be used as play hideouts.

Isthmus founding director David Irwin told a committee meeting that the plans for the lake design had to fit with the scale of the tourism-focused city, as it will be used as an international benchmark.

The Government has also come on board with the vision and has announced that it will add $20 million from the Provincial Growth Fund to match the $20 million already allocated by the Council. The grant will help kickstart the developments mentioned around the lakefront, such as the play areas and lakeside terraces.

The designs are all still in the conceptual stage, and there are expected to be several changes over the coming months. Work is slated to begin on the Eastern end in December this year, on the centre of the boardwalk in December 2019 and on the Western floating end of the boardwalk in December 2020.

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