Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


DOC and the US Embassy will celebrate national parks and the benefits of getting out into nature during a visit to Tongariro National Park this week.

Date:  01 March 2016

Department of Conservation Director General Lou Sanson says Tongariro, New Zealand’s oldest national park and dual world heritage area, is the perfect place for USA Ambassador Mark Gilbert to kick off a year long celebration of 100 years of USA national parks. 

Horonuku Te Heuheu Tukino IV (Paramount Chief) of Ngāti Tūwharetoa, one of the tribes with mana whenua (occupational authority) over the land in this region, extended kaitiakitanga (custodianship) of the peaks of Tongariro, Ngāuruhoe and part of the peak of Ruapehu to the people of New Zealand September 23 1887. The other iwi with mana whenua are Ngāti Rangi, Uenuku, Ngāti Haaua and the Whanganui iwi. 

Tongariro, New Zealand's oldest national park and a dual World Heritage area, was created in 1894. It was the fourth national park in the world.  

Tongariro has subsequently been the first in the Southern Hemisphere classified for cultural values. This status recognises the park's important Māori cultural and spiritual associations as well as its outstanding volcanic features.

“This is the perfect place to launch this celebration, and walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing tomorrow will give the Ambassador a real sense of the diversity of New Zealand’s landscape. 

“We look forward to sharing this special place with him, and looking at other ways we can partner to promote the benefits of connecting to nature, getting outdoors and looking after our natural spaces.” 

Walking the popular Tongariro Alpine Crossing is the first in a number of events planned by the US Embassy in partnership with DOC to promote 100 years of USA national parks and to highlight DOC’s role in the Healthy Nature Healthy People programme. 

At the same time the US government launches their Healthy Parks Healthy People programme involving parks throughout USA, the New Zealand government is launching our own Healthy Nature Healthy People programme. 

“National parks engage communities through recreation, conservation, historic, and cultural preservation. They highlight values we share with the people of New Zealand,” says Ambassador Gilbert. 

“The 2016 national park centennial will kick off a second century of stewardship of America’s national parks. Every year thousands of Kiwis visit US national parks and public lands but because the sites are so varied, many do so without realising it. 

“The US Embassy is working closely with the National Parks Service and New Zealand’s Department of Conservation to spread the word about the amazing places they manage. There are so many inspirational stories associated with both our nations’ parks. They are beautiful natural resources and we need to protect them, and our diverse cultural heritage,” says Ambassador Gilbert.

US Ambassador Mark Gilbert will join Lou Sanson, Director-General of New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, DOC and Embassy staff, kaumatua and members of the local hapū Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, of Ngāti Tūwharetoa iwi, to walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on Wednesday 2 March leaving at 7 am from Mangatepopo road end carpark. (The trip is weather dependent).


Any media wanting to attend to photograph/film or interview should contact DOC ranger Amy Satterfield, phone +64 7 892 3468.

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