Find out about the relationship Maori have with the park.

Ko Tongariro te maunga Tongariro is the mountain
Ko Taupo te moana Taupo is the lake
Ko Ngāti Tuwharetoa te iwi Ngāti Tuwharetoa is the tribe
Ko te Heuheu te tangata te Heuheu is the man / Chief

Ngatoroirangi, the eponymous ancestor of Ngāti Tuwharetoa ascended the great mountains of the Central Plateau over 30 generations ago. It was then that he named Tongariro and the many features of the surrounding landscape, declaring this area as home for his descendants. It is from these beginnings that Ngāti Tuwharetoa maintains the inherent responsibility to protect the mountainous area for which they belong.


The Crown sought to establish a national park around Tongariro maunga (mountain). In 1887, the generosity and foresight of the Ngāti Tuwharetoa people saw the heart of the mountainous area being declared sacrosanct by the Ariki (Chief), Horonuku te Heuheu Tukino IV, enacting a tuku (act of customary lore) of the three volcanic peaks to protect and preserve the mountains for Ngāti Tuwharetoa, other iwi (tribes) and all New Zealanders. The intention of the tuku was to enter into a partnership with the Crown, at the time Queen Victoria of England, to ensure the continued protection of Tongariro.

In 1894, Tongariro National Park was established - the first for Aotearoa (New Zealand), and fourth in the world. Legal ownership of the sacred mountain peaks increased significantly from the original 2,640 hectare tuku into a 25,000 hectare land block vested solely in the Crown. This act by the Crown began a process whereby the authority of Ngāti Tuwharetoa over their involvement, guardianship and protection of their taonga (treasured heritage) in the Tongariro National Park has been greatly reduced.


In 1993, Tongariro National Park became the first area to be inscribed on the World Heritage List under the revised criteria describing cultural landscapes - the first in the world to be inscribed with Dual World Heritage classification, and by a country's indigenous people.

Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro

The mountains at the heart of the park have cultural and spiritual significance to Ngāti Tuwharetoa and symbolise the spiritual links between this community and their environment. Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro is the guardian hapū (sub-tribe) of Ngāti Tuwharetoa as the hau kāinga (true people of the homeland) for the Tongariro territory. Their continued existence in this environment ensures the cultural, spiritual and environmental values are protected and shared with all those that encounter this dynamic landscape.

The park has active volcanoes, a diverse range of ecosystems and some remarkable landscapes - each deeply enriched with stories of the hau kāinga and the significance to their people.   

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