Tarawera river access

On Easter Saturday (is that a valid term?) three of us decided to go kayaking in one of our old haunting grounds - the lower section of the Tarawera river. This is the 2+ section below the falls starting from the wooden bridge and ending at the concrete bridge futher down. As most people who have paddled this section know you need to get a forest permit from the information center in Kawarau. We duly turned up with our $2 coins only to be told that since Christmas the land bordering the river is now privately owned and the river is no longer accessible to kayakers.

I've sent an email to Fletcher Forests asking for more information and am awaiting a reply (if any) but in the meantime I was wondering whether anyone else knew about this or had encountered this problem. Apparently access to view the falls is still OK but kayaking is not.

alan's picture

I went to kawerau last weekend, the visitor centre has now shut down & you need to get permits from a photo shop by the supermarket, which of course was closed on the sunday. You can also get permits from the rotorua redwood centre on your way for free.

kayneo's picture

I think that there was an issue for a short while and only if you stated that you were accessing the river to kayak. Access to the area was still all good, was only the river that was the problem. But seems to have dissepated now anyways. I think there are bigger fis to fry at the moment.

Guido's picture

How strange. We paddled the G2 section about 2 month's ago. No problems whatsoever regarding permits at the Kawarau centre.

grasscutter's picture

Kiaora Guys,

Awesome to see pro-active, positive progress on the Tarawera access.

I haven't been at the site for a while hence the lack of a reply.

I am sure the local Iwi will appreciate your contacting them. Especially with the good points you have raised regarding the willows etc.

Have a good one


marcel's picture

Hi everyone,

I have had some tentative feedback from Fletcher Challenge Forests regarding access. They currently have the forestry manager looking into it but in the meantime they have this to say:

"...fairly confident that access to kayaking is no different to access to fishing , which we currently issue permits for. If you have a problem with Kawerau Info Centre you can organise your permits in advance from us. Details below."

Julianne Wilkinson
Manager, Visitor Centre & Community Investments
Fletcher Challenge Forests
Private Bag 3031
Phone: 07 346 2082
Fax: 07 347 3372

In the meantime I believe there have been a number of paddlers that have been up there in the last few months so the access situation currently seems OK. I believe you can ring through and organise access permits in advance with the Kawarau Information centre and if there are any issues you could try the contact above.


the.access.man's picture

Well Done Kayne'o

Keep us up to date with progress.

People often say NZRCA shoud be doing blah, blah, blah....

What they don't seem to realise is there IS NO actual NZRCA.

NZRCA is just the name we use when we all band together to get something done...

kayneo's picture

I have sent this to Te Arawa Trust today and will hopefully get more info next week. I am at home all weekend so give me a call if you you have any ideas (Craig's got my number)

Sent as follows:

Kia ora,

My name is Kayne Satchell. I am an active member of the New Zealand kayaking fraternity and have been for many years.

It seems that there has been some confusion within the kayakers around the central North Island as to the access to the Tarawera river around Kawerau. We have been told that the access to view the falls is available but at this stage there is no longer access for the use of the river on a recreational level.

I now ask that you make public, the trusts reasons for this restriction of access with a view to the negotiation of possible future access, granted to persons on a non-intrusive recreational permit. This will mean that users of the area will be willing to make their way onto and out of the river at certain points of entry and exit only (Except in instances of emergency)

As we believe that the usage of this river for kayaking is light we do not think that this will have an impact on the resident Flora & Fauna that inhabit this area. The exit & entry points are of human origin (Two bridges) and all users will be bound by a non-extraction clause on the purchase of a permit to enter the river. All access into and away from the river is on private road that is already used to travel to the falls (We do not believe this point to be an issue)

Most kayakers in New Zealand have a good understanding of the spiritual attachment that Maoridom has with the natural water ways of Aotearoa, this is also something that can be relayed at the time of purchase and will allow a greater understanding of these type of issues in other areas of our country.

Of interest to you will be the efforts that many kayakers have made in the past to eradicate and control the introduced species of trees that inhabit the banks of the Tarawera. The willow that is rampant here has overtaken many rivers throughout the North Island and made them unusable to all that may visit an area. Their root system has in many cases blocked or transformed a river flow to such an extent that it has deterred the natural movement of spawning fishes and facilitated the introduction of noxious weeds to an area, in essence making the area uninhabitable to many species. Without this work the river would quickly revert to the state that was found a few years ago after the river had not been used by recreational kayakers for some time. At that stage much of the river was choked and had to be cleared with the use of chainsaws and hand saws. These days it is more of a maintenance issue and at the moment this has been done very well.

I see this as an excellent opportunity for kayakers and local Iwi to prove that with some negotiation we can make some headway into an area that there is much public tension and prove that with some give and take we may be able to address future arguments, not to mention the financial windfall that maybe possible in certain circumstances.

I now look forward to your views on this subject and will make myself available for further ratification of the above.

I thank you for the time you have taken to review our concerns and hope to hear from you in the near future.

Kia ora rawa atu,

Kayne Satchell

marcel's picture

Cheers Kayne. I received an email from Fletchers last note noting that they have received my email (!?) so at least I have a contact there. I'll re-email them again tonight when I get home and see if I can speed the process up...

kayneo's picture


I will give these guys a go (Again) and will try to get something hooked up within the trust (Interview or call)
Check this site:



marcel's picture

Hi Nic,

Sorry if you took offence to my comments. Indeed I am trying to do something positive in getting information from Fletcher Forests (who have yet to answer my emails). When I asked at the Kawarau information centre as to why the access was denied they were not able to offer an explaination apart from "local iwi own the land and have decided no kayaking is allowed".

You seem to forget that the river isn't just closed off to me but to all kayakers regardless of race or religion. Indeed the three people that turned up to paddle that day were Dutch, Thai and Kiwi.

Only those who paddle Tarawera get to fully appreciate the beauty of the resource and all New Zealanders (and foreigners for that matter) should be given the opportunity to share in this appreciation.

Like Kayne I'm hoping this situation can be resolved so that all parties will be given this opportunity.

kayneo's picture

I tend to agre with Nic on this one (But Nic if you knew Marcel you would realise that he is not small minded and I think that you have taken his comments in the wrong text)

How about all of us putting together a plan to put infront of the local Iwi and see what we can achieve thought some constructive negotiation.

It seems to me that most decisions made throughout maoridom are done so due to either a spiritual or common sense reasoning. If you have a look at most tapu's there is always a good reason behind why these have been placed on a area (although some of us cant see this reason till we have been told) I dont believe that there has been any Tapu placed on the riverbed but lets find out why we have been denied access and ask that our views be heard. You might find that the local Iwi may alow certain times and days that we can get on the river. Or maybe there will be a charge for the use of their land.

Those that dont paddle have no idea what we do and might see us as destroying a habitat that is important to a group of people (Be it a spiritual attatchment or not).

I am very keen to look into it but will require some help to do this. Those that are willing please reply to:


Sweet as,


grasscutter's picture

Kiaora Marcel,

As a kayaker and a New Zealander I too am concerned about access to all our favourite spots in the outdoors. The Tarawera was one of the first rivers I ever paddled and it would be a shame if other paddlers did not have the chance to experience the river.

Just one point however, you will not do yourself or any other kayaker any favours with the small minded comments you have made in your post. You don't even know the situation as to why access is restricted. Yet you choose to fly off the handle about Taniwha because of its popular status in the media recently. How about you chill out and think about positive ways of communicating with the iwi in question so that access may be maintained, rather than insulting the very people you are asking to allow you access.


marcel's picture

Apparently the access situation has changed since Christmas so you might have have got in just before the change but I also agree that if there's fishing access you'd expect kayak access as well. Certainly when I was up there last (about a year ago) there were kayakers, fishermen, hunters and Tarawera Falls viewers all there at the same time.

I'm still waiting for a reply from Fletcher Forests as to the situation but from what the woman at the Kawarau information office was saying it appears to be permanent.

I've also done a rescue course there (in the small slalom section by the second bridge) and it's a great spot for combat swimming practice, pin and wrap extraction (on the rock below the bridge) and general boat rescue skills. It's safe and warm with plenty of safety demonstration options.

alan's picture

I have had no probelms getting permits to go fishing in the Tarawera (mind you last time I did this was summer!) Don't see how it differs: surely if we are allowed to go fishing we should be allowed to kayak. I have also done a river rescue course on the Tarawera, its a fun section. Are these restrictions temporary or permanent?

marcel's picture

If that's the case the local iwi are not doing themselves any favours in the popularity stakes. Given that the bridges are accessible to the permit carrying public and that the run I'm discussing starts and ends on those bridges maybe they would be happy to open that stretch to kayakers at large as it wouldn't intrude on their land and therefore disturb the Taniwha's. Or possible the Taniwha's live under the bridges and we've been $%^&ing them off the last 3 years and that's why they want to stop the kayakers ;-)

andy3's picture

We enquired at the info centre about kayaking this section and were told that the iwi that owns the land and leases it to CHH were undecided about whether to allow kayaking access to the river. It looks like they may now have decided.