Date: 27 November 2012
The Department of Conservation plans to re-open the Tongariro Northern Circuit and part of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on Thursday.
New signage and barriers will be in place in time for the tracks to Emerald Lakes and Oturere Valley to be open Thursday morning.
DOC’s Ruapehu Area Manager Jonathan Maxwell says staff have been working continually since last week’s event at Te Maari, looking at the science and potential hazards to have a current risk assessment and the confidence to re-open. GNS has also provided some advice.
“Visitor and staff safety in and around the park is paramount and that has always been our priority.
“The tracks being re-opened can not only be used safely but will provide visitors with an amazing enhanced national park experience.
“Tongariro National Park has world heritage status for it’s natural and cultural values. It is an active and living landscape and the recent events have left more exciting active features for people to enjoy” Jonathan says.
“Volcanic landscapes around the world including Tongariro are first class tourism venues attracting thousands of visitors each year. Tongariro with this recent activity may have just jumped up the world-wide must do list, to perhaps the top,” he says.
The department has continued to work closely with Ngāti Tūwharetoa through local hapu Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, and community and business leaders to re-open tracks as the eruption risk management area has been revised.
A blessing ceremony, Te Whakapainga (the journey to make right), will take place at Mangatepopo Road car park, on Wednesday in preparation for the re-opening to the public.
Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro spokesman Te Ngaehe Wanikau says the mountain has spoken again. It is very important that we have listened to what the maunga has said, and before we re-open the maunga (mountain) and the whenua (land) to the people, that we respect and honour it with a blessing.
A Rāhui (protective restriction) remains in place around Upper Te Maari Crater area having been placed there in mid October by Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro. The Rāhui upholds a traditional Maori custom (Tikanga Maori) to ensure the safety and protection of all people entering the region. The Rāhui covers the highest risk area within 1km of the crater and remains closed by DOC.
Members of Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro hapu will continue to support the re-opening by welcoming trampers to the maunga and whenua at Mangatepopo car park. They will talk to visitors about the cultural significance of the maunga (mountain) and the land (whenua) as well as sharing some of the stories of our people says Te Ngaehe.
The Eruption Risk Management zoning has been reduced to a distance of 3kms around Upper Te Maari Crater. Facilities remain closed within this area, with the exception of the short distance of track to Emerald Lakes, the junction of the track in Oturere Valley, and down into Oturere Valley. This means that people can traverse the volcano via the Tongariro Northern Circuit around Mt Ngauruhoe.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing as a whole will take longer to re-open with the section of track from Oturere Junction to Ketetahi Road remaining closed at this stage. It will be re-opened as soon as the current risks are assessed by DOC as being sufficiently low to ensure public safety. This assessment will be based on the probability of significant hazards from further eruptions.
“We are working with the whole community – iwi, hapu, business leaders, tourism operators and agencies –to provide safe public access to one of New Zealand’s most special places,” Jonathan says.
All other facilities, activities and alternative walking tracks are fully operational within the 80,000ha Tongariro National Park.
6 August 2012: Upper Te Maari Crater first erupted just before midnight. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Northern Circuit was re-opened in stages as monitoring by GNS and others, and risk assessments showed that risks to people decreased. The full Tongariro Alpine Crossing was re-opened for Labour weekend with a 1km Ngāti Tūwharetoa Rāhui and Eruption Risk Management Zone in place around the crater.
Volcanic hazard flyers were distributed at all entrances to the track since August 6th and the information in these flyers assisted many people during the second eruption.
21 November 2012: A second much smaller eruption occurred at 1:30pm while the Tongariro Alpine Crossing was open. Volcanic material travelled less than 500m from the vent well within the 1km Rāhui in place. Large numbers of visitors were on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track at the time. No one was hurt and some used the designated and documented alternate route off the mountain.