What is being done? – He aha e marohitia ana

We are creating a world-class lakefront that is uniquely Rotorua. There will be more to explore, more space to run, play, and adventure, and more places to sit, relax, and reflect. The lakefront will be a destination for family, friends, and visitors to enjoy.

The plan includes removing old buildings that are no longer safe or fit-for-purpose, enhancing the landscape so there are more places to play or sit and relax with friends and whanau, extending and enhancing the playground area, improving the lake edge and lake ecology, and constructing new car parks and public toilets. The plan also includes a building site where investors could establish restaurants, cafés, kiosks and ticketing offices so there are more options for entertainment and fun at the lakefront.

Rotorua lakefront
Rotorua Lakefront Masterplan


Built on and off land, a wide timber boardwalk will be built along the existing lake edge. It will stretch across the bay, through the headlands, and then back out over the water again at each end. The boardwalk will let us get closer to Lake Rotorua. The western end of the boardwalk will provide opportunities for waka ama, access for boating and other recreational water sports, while the eastern end will be a quiet and contemplative space where the natural lake edge can be enjoyed.

At almost 5m wide and with a very shallow lake, the boardwalk has been fully assessed and meets all health and safety requirements. Building consent has been granted on that basis.

The Tukutuku bridges will provide one of the access points to the boardwalk from the land. They functionally and metaphorically make the connection between place and whakapapa and represent waka resting on the shoreline. There will be a number of bridges of different widths and lengths, made from a variety of materials. The bridges have been designed to be fully accessible for people with reduced mobility. We will look to install artwork on the bridges or to make the bridges artwork in themselves. Here there is opportunity for storytelling about the original whānau who lived on the lake edge – Kouramāwhitiwhiti/ Maraekūkuta/ Te Toto-o-Hinemaru/ Paepaehakumanu.

As part of the lakefront development, a new building for commercial activities will be constructed. The building will be a private investment on a leased site on the reserve.

Lakefront boardwalk and entertainment building concept art

The lakefront is well suited to include food and beverage offerings ranging from cafés through to restaurants and bars, iSite and visitor information hubs, tourism operator hubs and kiosks, and small-scale tourism and cultural ventures and experiences.

The building (and activities within it) will be of a standard that matches the quality of the wider reserve redevelopment and aims to:
• Make a statement and be an attraction in its own respect.
• Attract locals and visitors to the lakefront all year round.
• Attract people to the lakefront during the day and into the night.
• Be distinctly Rotorua and enhance Rotorua’s unique attributes.
• Complement and enhance the uses and activities in the wider surrounding area.
• Interact with and activate adjoining areas including walkways, promenades, cycle ways, jetties, piers, open spaces, carparks, and view shafts.

Terracing along the lake edge will provide space near the water to sit and reflect, picnic with friends, or relax and read a book. Tracing the original shorelines and headlands of the lake, the terraces also provide protection from changing lake water levels and weather damage. The terraces will reduce the risk of erosion and reduce the amount of pavement maintenance required.

Made from concrete, the terraces will also form pathways around the lakefront and provide additional access to the water’s edge. This will allow for easy lake edge maintenance and weed management.

Lake Rotorua is a well-known habitat for koura but near the lakefront development site, the kōura habitat is limited due to excess silt and a lack of suitable cover (i.e., stones and rocks). The lakefront project provides an opportunity to significantly improve habitat for kōura. This is well timed because catfish (predators of kōura) have recently been found in Lake Rotorua. The design includes nursery spaces that are well protected for baby kōura, who are the most vulnerable to catfish. During construction, silt and debris will be removed and local ecologist and kōura scientist Dr Ian Kusabs, William Anaru (coordinator working to eradicate catfish from our lakes) and the Te Arawa Lakes Trust, are working with designers to create better habitats. The boardwalk also provides essential shade and places to hide away from predators. These improvements are expected to enhance habitat quality and help koura to thrive in this area once again.

Dr Ian Kusabs

“Kōura are highly valued by Māori and are considered a taonga species by Te Arawa. They are also an indicator of ecosystem health because they need well oxygenated water and substrate free of silt. With the improvement in Lake Rotorua’s water quality in recent years, kōura have returned to the lakefront (mainly where rocks and stones are present). The development project provides us with a fantastic opportunity to enhance the kōura population and other fisheries values in the area.”

Dr Ian Kusabs, Scientist/Principal, Ian Kusabs and Associates Ltd

Memorial Drive was a road that provided access to other parts of the lakefront. With the new lakefront design aiming to provide more space for people to gather and enjoy, the road has been removed from the lakefront edge and Memorial Drive has become a plaza and car park, rather than a thoroughfare. Memorial Plaza provides space for a larger variety of parking including mobility, motorcycle and bicycle parking.

Mobility car parks are located close to the lake edge and toilet facilities. The total number of car parks available at the lakefront will remain approximately the same as before the development and the main parking areas will be on Memorial Drive and off Lake Road. Memorial Plaza has also been designed so it can be used for other purposes such as events and parades.

The current playground at the lakefront is a huge draw card for families enjoying time together. The new playground design expands on this and creates even more opportunities for adventure and fun for all ages and abilities.

Rotorua Lakefront
New Rotorua Lakefront Playground

Most of the existing playground will be kept and enhanced, making the new playground three times bigger. The new playground has been designed with safety in mind and will be separated from pathways and roads. There will be two large smooth surface loops for bikes, scooters and skateboards, dual flying foxes, a basketball half court, a nest swing, as well as spaces to sit, relax, and watch the action

The new playground has been developed around three key ideas.

Everyone Plays
Play that includes recreation and use of open space for all ages and abilities. The majority of play experiences in the new playground are intentionally inclusive and non-age specific, rather than solely structured play for younger children.

Playable Landscape
That the public realm is playful, fun and memorable, with a diverse range of play experiences that encourage exploration, discovery and connection to place.

Temporary Play Activation
Opportunity for temporary play activation at the lakefront through programming and creating an ever-changing play experience.

In early 2019 more than 100 local tamariki participated in creative workshops and shared their own ideas for this playground with the lakefront designers. The ideas that emerged from the workshops have been included in the new playground design – designed for kids, by kids.

“It was really cool to create our ideas for the new playground and show them to the designers.
I can’t wait to check out the new playground and see our ideas in real life.”

Caleb Nicholls (12 years old)

There will be two main public toilet blocks at the lakefront and toilets available in the new food and ticketing building. The existing toilet block has been refurbished recently and a new toilet block will be built near the playground with access from Tūtānekai Street. This means that there will be toilets located on either side of the playground and next to thecar parking areas. The new public toilet block will also cater for larger tour buses and will include a fully equipped accessible toilet, the only one of its kind in the region.