Tauranga City Council, Ngāti Hangarau and Tourism Bay of Plenty extend their sincerest condolences to the family and friends of the man who sadly died yesterday afternoon at Omanawa Falls in the Western Bay of Plenty.
“This is an immensely sad time for his family and friends as well as the local community, and our most heart-felt sympathy is offered. On behalf of Council, Ngāti Hangarau and Tourism Bay of Plenty, I would like to thank the emergency services and first responders for all of their efforts yesterday,” says Tina Sailsbury, Acting Mayor, Tauranga City Council. “For locals and visitors alike there are other beautiful waterfalls in our region that are well worth visiting, no matter what you may have seen online or heard, Omanawa Falls is closed to the public because it is extremely dangerous," says the Acting Mayor.
“The Omanawa Falls have been closed to the public for some time now for safety reasons,” says Mark Smith, Manager – Parks & Recreation, Tauranga City Council. To ensure people are aware of the dangers, the track closure is clearly signposted to deter visitors from the area while the site is closed.
“The Omanawa Falls lies within the rohe of Ngāti Hangarau and we are grateful for their support partnering directly on the care of this important cultural site,” says Mark. Representatives from Ngati Hangarau were onsite yesterday to help support grieving whanau and friends, and will return today to the falls to conduct further karakia. A rahui has been put in place until further notice.
Kaitiaki from Ngati Hangarau will continue to be present at the Falls most days this summer to help care for this special place, as well as educate visitors around the cultural significance of the site and of course the dangers that exist. “Despite the Kaitiaki programme deterring hundreds of people so far, there are still people accessing the Falls. However, we will continue with this education approach and the presence and dedication of the Kaitiaki is an important part of this.” says Mark.
Tourism Bay of Plenty has been working with the travel sector to update, remove or edit online listings about the Falls, including Trip Advisor. They are also working to educate accommodation providers of the cultural and environmental reasons not to visit the site.
Council, Ngāti Hangarau and Tourism Bay of Plenty continue to ask people not to visit the falls and highlight that there are a number of other waterfalls in the Bay people can visit.