Tongariro National Park is the oldest national park in New Zealand, located in the central North Island. It has been acknowledged by UNESCO as one of the 28 mixed cultural and natural World Heritage Sites.
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.
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.
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.
The Maoriare a Polynesian people who reached Aotearoa (New Zealand) before AD 1300 (and possibly as early as AD 600-800). They came as settlers in large double-hulled canoes -men, women, and children, with their plants and domestic animals.