Native Affairs – A warning to Tongariro tourists

A warning to Tongariro National Park users change is coming.

Local hapū, Ngāti Hikairo spokesman Te Ngaehe Wanikau says the exploitative attitude towards the use of the dual heritage park is about to end.

“For us, it’s a constant source of mamae, of hurt,” says Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro kaumatua Te Ngaehe Wanikau.

The Tongariro National Park is one of UNESCO’s mixed cultural and natural World Heritage sites. But tourism numbers in the park has caused concern for locals for years. Wanikau hopes with the signing of the Tūwharetoa Deed of Settlement next week, tourist numbers will be reduced.

“It has been, what we’ve seen, as almost a wild west attitude to pushing as many numbers as possible through the Tongariro Crossing, for example.”

Ngāti Tuwharetoa will sign its Deed of Settlement with the Crown next week. Part of it gives the iwi decision-making powers over the park. Wanikau says the settlement consolidates years of work by generations of the tribe to assert their guardianship of the area.

Various sub-tribes of Ngāti Tuwharetoa including Ngāti Hikairo are already working with tourism operators and the Department of Conservation to reduce the tourism footprint in the area.

“What’s a one day walk to people and what they leave behind and the footprint, our people pick up in rubbish bags and rubbish buckets.”

Wanikau says efforts are beginning to pay off. He says a management plan with the Department of Conservation will allow people to still enjoy the maunga without the impact.

Local tourism operator Jared Thomas says working with the iwi has been good for his business. “There are a lot of issues around the national park, if you’ve got a better understanding of why these changes are happening then generally you won’t have an issue,” he says.

Ngāti Tūwharetoa will sign the Deed of Settlement at Waiteteko Marae in Turangi on Saturday, 8 July 2017.