Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park
Mixed New Zealand Asia And The Pacific

Tongariro lies at the south-western terminus of a Pacific chain of volcanoes aligned along a major tectonic plate boundary. The park's volcanoes, which are outstanding scenic features of the island, contain a complete range of volcanic features. The related ecological succession of plant communities is of special scientific interest. The site is directly associated with the living traditions, beliefs and artistic works of the Maori people, whcih are of outstanding universal significance.

Tongariro National Park is situated on the central North Island volcanic plateau. The boundary encircles the Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro mountain massif at an altitude of 500-1,550 m. An outlier, 3 km north of the main park area and separated from it by Lake Rotoaira, includes Lake Rotopounamu, Mount Pihanga and Mount Kakaramea. The park lies at the southern end of a discontinuous 2,500 km chain of volcanoes that extends north-east into the Pacific. The volcanoes in the park, which are predominantly andesitic in composition, fall into two groups on the basis of location, activity and size. Kakaramea, Tihia and Pihanga volcanoes and their associated vents, domes, cones and craters form the northern group. These lie on a 10 km north-west to south-east axis and have not been active for some 20,000-230,000 years. The active group extends for some 20 km along a south-west to north-east axis, with a width of some 10 km, and comprises Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu volcanoes. The Tongariro complex consists of recent cones, craters, explosion pits, lava flows and lakes superimposed on older volcanic features. In addition to these major features, the park contains other extinct volcanoes, lava and glacial deposits and a variety of springs. Extensive glaciation up to 14,700 years ago eroded both Tongariro and Ruapehu and glacial valleys with terminal and lateral moraine formations are present. Glaciers are currently restricted to Mount Ruapehu, although all are less than 1 km in length after several decades of retreat. Habitats are diverse, ranging from remnants of rainforest to practically barren ice fields. From the lowest altitudes to 1,000 m in the west and north, about 3,000 ha of once widespread mixed podocarp-broadleaf rainforest is present. At higher altitudes beech forest occurs.

Scrublands cover some 9,500 ha. Tussock shrubland and tussockland cover extensive areas in the north-west and around the mount Ruapehu massif at about 1,200-1,500 m. The highest altitudes in the park are dominated by gravelfields and stonefields. The vertebrate fauna is restricted mainly to birds although native mammals are represented by short-tailed and long-tailed bats. More than 56 bird species have been recorded in the park, including brown kiwi and North Island fern bird.

The area has been occupied by Maoris since they first arrived from Polynesia and ethnic mythology identifies the mountains in the park with tupuna (god-like ancestors). Until the land was given to the nation in 1887, it was occupied by the Tu Wharetoa tribe.