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From 'useless' lands to World Heritage : a history of tourism in Tongariro National Park : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Masters of Business Studies at Massey University
Tongariro National Park is New Zealand's oldest national park. It is unique in that it is a product of dynamic volcanism and is entrenched in Maori and European history. Until 1800, the imprint of humans on the landscape was feeble. However, the tables have been turned through the workings of science, technology and industry - now it is the habitat that is vulnerable, not humans (Opie 1983, p 14). Tongariro National Park covers a total of 79,598 hectares (197,500 acres) in the centre of New Zealand's North Island (Figure 1.1, p 2). It is an extensive natural area with a wide range of features illustrating a long period of volcanism, which is still active today. Within its boundaries are three major active volcanoes - Ruapehu 2,797m (9,175 ft), Ngauruhoe 2,290m (7,504 ft) and Tongariro 1,968m (6,458 ft). These have produced a diverse range of ecological communities and an outstanding scenic landscape. In the park there is mingling of volcanic and hydrothermal, of the alpine and sylvan. There are many geological and physiographical features that can be discovered here: boiling lakes, ice-cold lakes, glaciers, snow-fields, sulphurous pits, huge cliffs and rocky pinnacles, and mountain meadows are all to be seen (Grace 1992). In the 1800s, these mountains in the centre of the North Island were virtually unknown to the Pakeha (European). All this changed in 1887 when Te Heuheu Tukino IV and other chiefs of the Tuwharetoa tribe from the Tokaanu district, donated their sacred volcanoes Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu as the nucleus of Tongariro National Park, to the New Zealand government and people. Its original size was 2,630 hectares. This was New Zealand's first national park, only the fourth in the world and the first given by indigenous people (Thom 1987).