By Rebecca Malcolm, Rotorua Daily Post
A new $30 million tourism venture for Rotorua has been revealed which will showcase the story of manuka honey.
The new tourism experience is a partnership between Rotohokahoka D North 4D Trust and New Zealand Manuka Group.
The development, to be built on 20ha of land next to Skyline Rotorua, is expected to cost about $30 million and attract more than 180,000 visitors a year.
It is expected to employ about 30 people initially, growing to 50 people when completed.
New Zealand Manuka Group chairman and founder Phil Caskey said the project would create a "unique manuka-themed visitor experience".
Mr Caskey said he came up with the concept about 16 years ago and had been working with the trust for about a year. This weekend the trust voted to proceed with developing the joint venture partnership.
"It is very exciting and very unique. I am confident it will be an iconic attraction."
He said the Manuka Story experience would provide visitors with hands-on and locally guided viewing of a working manuka plantation, beekeeping and honey operation while showcasing the importance of manuka in traditional Maori medicine.
"Its vision is also to reflect the unique cultural innovation when Maori and Pakeha values are engaged in a co-productive business environment."
Mr Caskey said work was already under way to tidy up the site and further construction work would start early next year.
He said it would be a full production plantation.
Mr Caskey said the facility should be open "about this time next year".
"Manuka is the darling of the world at the moment."
The Rotohokahoka Trust represents Te Arawa hapu Ngati Waoku and trust chairman Professor Paora Tapsell said the hapu had been waiting a long time to see its land put to good use.
"It will be a place that will pull in talent and different ways of thinking for the community with a high level of research, development and engaging with taonga [treasures] and the biodiversity of the forests.
"The sciences are the key to the future of humanity to be honest. Our centre of innovation will find ways to engage with 16 generations of Maori culture and Western science to find innovative pathways forward.
"We have been very busy behind the scenes for almost 12 months working on due diligence, business strategy and bringing our own people on board.
"Finally we can tell the world. It's been really great with the support of mayor and council, Skyline, Crankworx, and it's really exciting.
"We've waited 16 generations for this land to build something strong and we weren't in a rush to put this together and had to be sure we were dealing with people whose values aligned with ours," Professor Tapsell said.
Mayor Steve Chadwick said the venture would add a unique new aspect to Rotorua's tourism offering.
"It will align with Rotorua's tourism aspirations as well as contributing to our future economic growth and seeding new investments and jobs."
- Expected to cost $30 million
- Aims to attract 180,000 visitors a year
- Will initially employ about 30 people
- Joint venture between Rotohokahoka Trust and New Zealand Manuka Group