An historic bush railway and sawmill involving the sights and sounds of steam era logging and milling could be built at the TECT All Terrain Park.
In a major departure from the park's original purpose, a Rotorua-based charitable trust has applied to create a tourist attraction in the park sited midday between the Bay's two cities.
Details of the plan were disclosed this week to the park's subcommittee, which instructed staff to obtain more information and report back.
Sixty members of the Bush Railway and Old Sawmill Trust are dedicated to preserving the history of the Mamaku Plateau, with its sawmilling and breaking in of the land by pioneers.
Park manager Ric Balfour said the bush railway and old sawmill would be a living visitor attraction, somewhat similar to Shantytown.
He said the hobby group wanted to secure a home and create a business venture where people could experience the sights and sounds of steam era logging and milling.
"It is the opinion of council staff that the proposed activity is suited to the proposed site and that potential adverse effects will not be significant on adjacent motorsport clubs."
Staff said the proposal had enough merit to take it to the next stage with park user groups and the development of a management plan.
Other Western Bay of Plenty District Council staff involved in Mr Balfour's report were reserves manager Peter Watson and engineering services manager Gary Allis.
The trust has spent four years trying to secure a site on Maori-owned land closer to Rotorua.
Mr Balfour said the "preliminary area" identified for the venture partially extended over the boundary of the park's motorsports area, although a 50m buffer would still be maintained. The mill and village would be built close to the park's main entrance.
The first stage of the project would be the steam-driven sawmill which would run whenever there were enough visitors to justify starting it up, or when timber was required.
Stage two would be the bush railway consisting of a three-quarter scale Heisler steam locomotive and passenger carriages with fibreglass body work to simulate the logging trains used in the Mamaku Ranges in the 1920s.
The mill and railway would be supported by a cookhouse style cafe, cabins, a retail store featuring wood products, and a viewing platform.
The trust's report said the major buildings in the style of the period would be the entrance and reception area, cookhouse (restaurant) and sawmill. The reception/cookhouse could also serve as a hall for meetings or entertainment, with the cookhouse also featuring displays of milling memorabilia and vintage machinery.
Attached to the mill would be a demonstration wood-turning shop making souvenirs.
The trust needed to generate an annual income of $1.3 million to make it a going concern, meaning the cost of admission for a projected 40,000 visitors in the first year of opening would be $33, declining to $19 by year seven as the popularity of the attraction increased to 70,000 visitors a year.
Converting 3ha of the Te Matai forest for the project meant the council would forfeit $34,000 of carbon credits.
- Located on 5 to 10 hectares of reasonably level ground.
- 1920s vintage working sawmill complete with bench saws.
- Cookhouse-styled cafe, mill houses and a store.
- 2-3km loop railway to run the locomotive and passenger train.
- Forest setting with native bush restoration potential.