Tongariro mountains gifted to Crown

23 September 1887

Tūwharetoa chief Horonuku Te Heuheu Tūkino IV (Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-041319-F)

In February 1887 newspapers reported Ngāti Tūwharetoa’s proposal to gift the British Crown the mountaintops of Tongariro, Ngāuruhoe and Ruapehu to form the basis of a national park.

The initiative reflected Ngāti Tūwharetoa’s ongoing concern for its sacred mountains. During the 1880s various claimants were seeking land around Lake Taupō. Because Tūwharetoa chief Horonuku had joined both Waikato and Te Kooti in fighting against the Crown, some claimants believed the Crown would treat the Taupō blocks as rebel land. Horonuku could see that he might lose the land. On the advice of his son-in-law, the politician Lawrence Marshall Grace, he gifted the mountain block to the government to ensure that it could never be sold.

The gift of 6518 acres (2638 ha) became the nucleus of the proposed Tongariro National Park – New Zealand’s first and the fourth in the world. Over the next 20 years, the government sought further land with which to establish the park. Official confirmation appeared in the New Zealand Gazette in 1907, when sufficient land was in Crown title.