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In 1929 a young man named Ted Bruce moved from Fielding to Rotorua purchased a run-down dairy farm, covered in swampy ground and really not much use for anything. Ted must have seen something in that land though, because almost 90 years on, Rainbow Springs is one of the premier tourism attractions in Rotorua, welcoming thousands of guests each year.
Between 1929 and 1932, Ted set about creating his vision on Rainbow Springs, building cabins, a campground and caravan park. He then started capturing the spring water that was erupting from the ground, forming the first pool - the Rainbow Pool, which flows for 2.5km, via a fish ladder into Lake Rotorua. Trout from the Fairy Springs creek were netted and transferred to the new pool.
Hundreds of native trees, ferns and shrubs were collected from near-by Mamaku and transported via horse and cart, then planted around the park. Aviaries and pathways were created and 12 Californian Redwoods were planted, which still stand tall in the park today. In December 1932, with a staff of three, the park was officially opened to paying visitors.
Ted continued to own the park until 1940, and a succession of owners came and went until two brothers, Merve & Rob Brown purchased the park and added the trout nursery pool and the underwater viewing pool, originally at waist height, but now around two metres tall today. In 1967 Jack Mills and Mel Friend bought Rainbow Springs and the lease on adjacent Fairy Springs, developing the park at a great pace. A kiwi nocturnal house was built, along with a new administration build and extension of the shop, and a new restaurant, all designed by well-known architect Roger Walker. A pathway was also built between Rainbow Springs and Fairy Springs creating one large attraction.
1986 welcomed a major new development - Rainbow Farm, and a tunnel was created under the road to link the two attractions. The Farm ran an exciting show and successful gift shop, based around agriculture in New Zealand. 1990 saw a new enlarged gift shop built and in 1992 a Booking centre and photo shop were opened. Rainbow Springs had a complement of 120 staff at this time!
The Shotover Group purchased Rainbow Springs and Farm in 1995, continuing to improve the park with the addition of a new entrance and revamped kiwi static display, conversion of the Info centre into a cafe and a new free-flight aviary. 2003 saw the sale of Rainbow Farm and the closure of the restaurant, in preparation for an ambitious new project - Kiwi Encounter, a purpose-built kiwi hatching and rearing facility; the first of it's kind open to the public. It was also around this time (2004) that the Shotover Group was bought out by Ngai Tahu, the current owners of the park.
New projects continued over the years as Rainbow Springs continued to reinvent itself. This included lighting the park for evening visitors, gift shop and ticketing area renovation, new aviaries, water ride The Big Splash and new children's playground.
As Rainbow Springs' Kiwi Encounter celebrates its 2020th kiwi to hatch here, more excitement is just around the corner...