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Iwi propose Tarawera Great Walk

A steaming Hot Water Beach. Photo: Matthew Pike

Mt Tarawera destroyed New Zealand’s biggest tourist attraction when it blew in 1886, obliterating the Pink and White Terraces. Now a local iwi is hoping a new multi-day walk to the dormant craters will once again be a tourist boon to the area.

Te Mana o Ngāti Rangitihi Trust is investigating whether Mt Tarawera could be the site of a new Great Walk. It has funding for a feasibility study which will look at the cultural, environmental and economic impact of building and managing a new trail in a partnership with DOC.

Trust chair Leith Comer said the trail up Mt Tarawera could link existing DOC tracks on either side of the mountain, including the Tarawera Trail to Hot Water Beach, and the Northern Tarawera Track between the Lake Tarawera Outlet and Humphries Bay campsites. The existing track would also have to be upgraded to Great Walk standard.

Comer said new accommodation would be built, which could range from basic bunk huts, through to serviced high-end accommodation.

Comer said the iwi wanted to prevent overcrowding and would seek to limit numbers on the track to about 200 a day.

“We don’t want another Tongariro Alpine Crossing,” Comer said

A map showing a possible multi-day walk at Mt Tarawera

The iwi also planned to offer guided walks.

Two thirds of the land is Government owned, while one third is owned by iwi. However, Ngati Rangi Tihi is finalising its Treaty of Waitangi settlement and Comer said it expects to become the majority landowner. The settlement is expected to be finalised in about 18 months.

Public access to Mt Tarawera has been restricted since the 1990s after a series of accidents. Two private companies have concessions to take clients up the mountain.

FMC president Peter Wilson said it supported the Tarawera Great Walk proposal.

“We want to see more Great Walks in the upper part of the North Island, closer to centres of population,” Wilson said.

DOC has been given $12.7 million to open two new Great Walks to relieve pressure on tourist hot spots like the Milford Track.