A Gift to New Zealand

KeteTongariro National Park was created from a nucleus of land (centred on the summits of Mounts Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro) which was gifted in 1887 to the nation of New Zealand by Te Heuheu Tukino, Chief of the Ngati Tuwharetoa Maori tribe.

Amidst conflicting land claims by neighbouring Maori tribes and encroachment by European pastoral farmers, the aim was to protect this ‘most feared and revered of all the sacred mountains of the Maori’ from subdivision and sale. Te Heuheu Tukino mentioned the national park status in his official correspondence to the Government.

The preliminary deed of gift, written on a sheet of foolscap paper, was sent to the Government. The deed, dated September 23rd 1887, was made between Te Heuheu Tukino (aboriginal native chief of the Colony of New Zealand) and Her Majesty, the Queen.

Tongariro National Park was formally constituted by Act of Parliament in 1894. Close to one hundred years later, the park was awarded ‘Dual World Heritage Site’ status.

Naming Tongariro

The Ngati Tuwharetoa people are descendants of the powerful tohunga, Ngatoro-i-rangi, who navigated to New Zealand (Aotearoa ) in the great waka ,‘Te Arawa’. After the long journey from Hawaiki, Ngatoro-i-rangi and his followers made landfall at Maketu, on the east cape of the North Island. They then made their way inland to claim new lands and subsequently arrived in what is now the Taupo district.

Struggling with fatigue and cold, Ngatoro-i-rangi climbed to the top of Tongariro. Weakened with the climbing and cold and near death, he called to his sisters in distant Hawaiki, ‘I am seized by the cold wind to the south, send me fire!’ The name Tongariro comes from ‘tonga’ (south wind) and ‘riro’ (seized).

Calling for three baskets of fire, only one arrived. After warming himself he threw the remains into the side of the mountain. This area is now called Ketetahi (one basket). The hot springs there were traditionally used for healing and the area has special significance to local Maori today.

Further Information

There are a range of very good books on Maori legends and the cultural history of the Tongariro National Park, as well as displays, in the DoC Visitor Information Centre. This is just down the road from the Whakapapa Holiday Park and well worth a visit while staying with us.