Tongariro's dual World Heritage status recognises the park's important Maori cultural and spiritual associations as well as its outstanding volcanic features.

Tongariro National Park is one of three World Heritage sites in New Zealand. The other two are Te Wahipounamu in the South Island, and the Sub Antarctic Islands. Te Wahipounamu is a massive area covering the south west of the South Island, and containing Fiordland, Westland, Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Aspiring National Parks.

Tongariro was nominated for both natural and cultural World Heritage status in 1990, and was inscribed on the heritage list that year for its natural values. At that time the criteria for cultural World Heritage sites stipulated that there be some tangible evidence of cultural use of the site e.g. a temple, habitation, etc.

New criteria - intangible cultural association

Representations from New Zealand convinced the World Heritage Committee that there was justifiable reasons for including sites where the cultural association was intangible.

Throughout the Pacific and Asia, many mountains and other sites had long associations with cultures as the abode of gods, and were treated as sacred areas. To Ngati Tuwharetoa and Ngati Rangi the mountains of Tongariro have always been regarded as spiritual and cultural entities.

Dual World Heritage status

The World Heritage Committee added an additional criteria for associative cultural values, and in 1993 Tongariro National Park became the first property to be inscribed on the World Heritage List under the revised criteria describing cultural landscapes.

The park is one of only 29 sites in the world with dual World Heritage status.

World Heritage Committee

Another advance in New Zealand's World Heritage standing was its election to the World Heritage Committee in 2003. Ngati Tuwharetoa Paramount Chief Tumu te Heuheu was New Zealand's Head of Delegation and sat on the committee in 2007. In 2006 he was elected Chair, and in June 2007 New Zealand hosted the World Heritage Committee in Christchurch.

Sisterhood relationship

In May 2010, Jeju Provincial Office of World Natural Heritage Sites Management established a sisterhood relationship with Tongariro National Park. It was agreed to cooperate in promoting the World Heritage sites and doing academic research. 

Moonrise over Ngauruhoe.
Moonrise over Ngauruhoe

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