The Rotorua Lakes Council needs to catch the wave of the future rather than tinkering with the package of “play features” being offered by the company managing the Aquatic Centre on its behalf.
Community Leisure Management (CLM) and council staff unveiled plans to add additional play activities to the more traditional swim-based activities at the Aquatic Centre.
CLM managing director John Latimer told the councillors the centre would remain a community facility, but waterslides would be “an additional attraction for Rotorua”. He offered the possibility of partnering with Whitewater NZ, which he said was “one of the world’s leading waterslide designers”.
“CLM has worked with Whitewater previously in Palmerston North where they helped facilitate the relationship with Palmerston City Council and Whitewater. Whitewater are (sic) keen to pursue this opportunity in Rotorua,” the joint CLM and Rotorua Lakes Council report said.
A spokesman said the waterslide reached four-stories high and was a tremendous attraction for Palmerston North.
Palmerston North, however, is a very different city to Rotorua. For one thing, the Manawatu city is not noted for being one of the leading centres for water-based activities in New Zealand.
Think “Palmy” and rural activities come to mind, or students attending the excellent Massey University. A giant whitewater slide might be just the ticket, but in Rotorua, there is a big risk that it will be seen as being from the city’s tourist past – remembering the waterslide in Marguerita Street.
Water-based activities in the Rotorua area are now more dynamic and in touch with the local region’s lakes and rivers, where leading professional and amateur practice and compete regularly – think waka ama, kayak, rafting and paddleboarding.
The council needs to tell CLM to go back and take a closer look at what leisure facilities more closely align to not only Rotorua’s water sports activities but also those in the surrounding area.
The city is only an hour away from the beautiful Pacific Ocean where surfers and other ocean sportspeople are attracted from throughout the country and around the world. But the surf isn’t always “up” as the saying goes.
Surf parks have grown exponentially in the United States and even in Australia, our continental neighbours where surfing is a national sport.
As the ABC reported: “You can forget Snapper Rocks or Margaret River; the new surf frontier is nowhere near the coast. Australia is set to become the latest destination to build commercial, artificial surf parks. Melbourne will be first, followed closely by Sydney and Perth, with a dozen others also on the drawing board.”
The Melbourne facility is expected to produce between 600 and 1,000 wavers an hour, passing through three separate surfing zones, from paddling waves for beginners to tubing waves over two metres high, the ABC said.
If the council dumped the old hat concept of waterslides and went for anything close to this surf concept, it would attract not only local surfers but many more international visitors who pass through Rotorua on their way to beaches which may, or (given the fickle nature of our ocean) may not have waves.
Muddy Waters understands waka ama is an important sport in Rotorua, the sportspeople involved would love the opportunity to practice their wave skills in an artificial surf park with our warm water swells.
We are a dynamic city with a strong sports culture for young people. The council needs to think carefully before committing to a look-alike of a rural centre.
Note, this is not to criticise or to be anyway disrespectful to Palmerston North. The opening line on its web site runs: “Palmerston North City and Manawatu is a great place to be and a destination to discover. Open spaces, friendly faces, city sights, rural delights. Come experience our piece of paradise.”
What might be good for one city, is not necessarily good for the future of another. The pic above shows a visual of the planned Melbourne surf park, supplied by developer URBN Sport.
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