Calls for trails around Lake Rotokākahi, Green Lake, to close, have surprised some connected community groups.
Early this week, RNZ reported the tapu site was being disrespected by people swimming in it.
The lake is privately owned by iwi and no swimming, fishing or boating is allowed.
Its small island, Motutawa, is the burial ground of many Māori ancestors, and Rotokākahi is now overseen by a Board of Control.
Earlier this week, RNZ reported comments from Rotokākahi Board of Control chairman Walton Hohepa Lee, saying tourists and locals were not following the rules.
“They’re swimming on the lake, they’re bringing their horses on the lake. They’re treating our lake as if it’s their playground – it’s not their playground.”
He told RNZ the board was not consulted “in any way, shape or form” regarding the expansion of bike trails nearby, and wanted the new bike trails closed.
“Right now we need to hold our ground, we need to hold our stance and maintain our mana whenua,” he said.
“All we have left is little pockets, so allow us to have the land that we have left and leave us in peace.”
Lee told RNZ tourism had taken precedence over tikanga (protocol).
“Don’t get me wrong, tourism is good for our economy but Rotokākahi is out of bounds.”
He told RNZ his message to those breaking the rules was “close the tracks and stay away – that’s all we want”.
Trails near Green Lake include the 2.8km Te Kōtukutuku, opened in 2018.
The track around a slope above the lake was approved by the Forest Recreation Management Group – made up of the Rotorua Lakes Council, Timberlands, CNI Holdings and landowners.
In a written statement forwarded to the Rotorua Daily Post, the Rotorua Lakes Council said it had been working to establish a relationship with the Rotokākahi Board of Control to support the board’s aspirations for the whenua and lake.
The council would continue to work with the board to alleviate issues where possible, the statement said.
Ride Rotorua spokesman Graeme Simpson told the Rotorua Daily Post he had not heard about the issue until the RNZ story was published this week.
“I know the rules about Rotokākahi and most locals would, I assume, and many of them have ridden in that sector for decades with no problems.”
He said, “the volume of traffic out there really has jumped dramatically and it’s very possible some people aren’t aware of the tapu status, especially visitors to Rotorua”.
Simpson said more signage would be helpful, and Ride Rotorua was “getting the word out”.
“My personal opinion is tikanga and the environment should take precedence over recreation in cases like this”.
Rotorua Lakes Community Board chairman Phill Thomass said the Rotokākahi Board of Control’s comments had not been raised with the Lakes Community Board in the last 18 months, since trails such as Te Kōtukutuku opened.
“The Forest Recreation Management Group is the appropriate body to find a solution… In general, I’d like to see more signage around all our lakes educating people on their history and significance to Māori, and this may also help resolve the issue at Lake Rotokākahi.”
He said he’d known about the lake’s sacred status and rules since childhood.
“I think it’s widely known by locals as well, there is an element of community pride that we have a lake that is protected in this way, and the tapu has always been largely respected as far as I’m aware.”
The Rotorua Trails Trust said the Rotorua Lakes Council was speaking on its behalf.