History - a brief overview

From violent volcanic origins to the settlement of Māori and European people, the Taupo region has deep cultural significance. Lake Taupo was created by a massive volcanic eruption around 186AD.

It is said that the huge eruption turned the skies of Europe and China into a fiery red.

Māori arrived in the region about 700 years ago. For the Ngati Tuwharetoa iwi that became the region’s dominant tribe, it was a harsh existence where the unfertile ashy soil made it difficult to grow kumara (sweet potato) and the lake was a poor food source.

Europeans arrived in the 1830s, but harsh conditions drove many away. Taupo Township was officially created in 1868 with the establishment of an armed constabulary post, however it wasn’t until the 1950s, when land was cleared and fertilized, that the region began to flourish.

Turangi – origin of the name

Turangi takes its name from Maori leader, Turangitukua, who was an important figure in the early history of the south Lake Taupo area. After many battles Turangitukua and his followers occupied land near the Tongariro River and he, along with several other Chiefs helped the Ngati Tuwharetoa people become established in the Taupo region. Turangitukua’s name was adopted as the name for the local sub-tribe, or hapu, of the Maori people in the delta region of the Tongariro River. The Hirangi Marae in Turangi remains the culture centre of the people of Ngati Turangitukua to this day.

Early Europeans reached the centre of the North Island in the 1830’s but it was not until the turn of the century that Europeans began to settle in Turangi following the introduction of brown and rainbow trout into the lake and rivers in the 1880’s and 1890’s. Turangi remained a sleepy fishing village through to the 1960’s when the growing demand for hydropower changed this forever. In 1964 the Tongariro Power Development project got underway and with it the building of a new town.

Tongariro Hydro Power Scheme

The Tongariro Power Scheme is located on the central volcanic plateau of the North Island. The scheme extends from the southern flanks of Mount Ruapehu in the south, to the southern point of Lake Taupo in the north, and along either side of the mountain range formed by Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. The catchment area covers more than 2600 sq km.

The scheme is operated to provide water to the Tokaanu and Rangipo power stations and uses a series of lakes, canals and tunnels to do so. Tokaanu Power Station is located on the slopes of Mount Tihia, near the township of Turangi. Rangipo Power Station is situated underground in the Kaimanawa Forest Park, on the eastern side of the Tongariro Power Scheme.

The electricity generated at the Tongariro Power Scheme goes into the national grid. Then it is distributed to residential, commercial and industrial customers throughout New Zealand.

Turangi was the first hydro town built with the intention of creating a permanent town, after lobbying on the part of the Taupo County Council.

At the peak of the Power scheme construction programme the population of Turangi reached 6,500 and then declined as the project came to an end in the 1980’s. A large tabletop map showing the scope of the tunneling and canals that were created can be seen at the Turangi i-Site. Today, tourism and forestry is the mainstay of the community along with the Justice Department, Genesis Energy, the Department of Conservation and farming being the main employers.

Turangi has matured over the years since the Hydro Power project along with the thousands of trees so thoughtfully planted years ago and which are now celebrated each autumn with a special colours festival.

Turangi-Tongariro Community Board

The Turangi-Tongariro region is administered by the Turangi Tongariro Community Board (TTCB) under delegated powers from the Taupo District Council. This ensures that local residents can have their say in important decisions.

Go Tongariro Incorporated:

Go Tongariro Inc is an incorporated body working with the TTCB, Taupo District Council and local businesses to promote the town of Turangi and the Turangi-Tongariro Ward.