A Gift from Te Heuheu Tukino

Tongariro National Park

Image © Sebastien Goldberg

A Gift from Te Heuheu Tukino

Tongariro is an active land where fire challenges the idea that geological change is slow. The mountain is a stratovolcano that stands 1987 metres tall with 12 cones that frequently erupt. It is composed of layers of both lava and tephra. The remarkable spectacle of Mount Tongariro rising out of the volcanic plateau drew director Peter Jackson to co-opt it as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films. Tongariro is a testament to the strength of natural forces shaping people. It is also a site of great cultural significance where people have shaped the landscape. For Maori the name Tongariro recalls the plea of the priest Ngatoroirangi as he lay perishing on the summit awaiting fire from the gods. In 1887 Tongariro National Park became New Zealand’s first national park, making it one of the first to be established in the world. In 1993 Tongariro National Park became the first of only 28 dual UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. These sites are recognized for having equal natural and cultural significance.


Te Heuheu Tūkino IV

The sacred land that now forms Tongariro National Park was gifted to the government in 1887 by Te Heu Heu Tukino IV, chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa. This offering was to ensure the protection of the land. Starting with Tongariro and the generosity of one people, today’s national parks are gifts preserved in perpetuity for everyone.

Horonuku Te Heuheu Tukino IV, [Between 1880 and 1888] Image © National Library of New Zealand

A Powerful Mountain

Powerful and erratic, Tongariro first erupted 270,000 years ago, and since 1839 has erupted more than 70 times. This includes several radical explosions that have left much of the North Island blanketed in ash.

Mount Ngauruhoe emitting smoke, circa 1930, Image © National Library of New Zealand


Popular recreational activities within Tongariro National Park include skiing and snowboarding on the slopes of neighbouring Mount Ruepahu. Ruepahu is where New Zealand’s first ski club, the Ruepahu Ski Club, was established in 1913 by local enthusiasts. The skiers ran it as family operation for the community. Today, however, climate change is shortening the ski season each year.

Image © Penny Egleton, Tourism New Zealand

Recent Eruptions

The most recent erruption occurred in 2012 to the shock of hikers on the popular Tongariro Crossing walk, which that takes people close to the volcano. These frequent volcanic events present an ongoing challenge to the management of Tongariro National Park, as measures have had to be put in place to ensure the safety
of visitors.

Image © GNS Science

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