Maori travelled through the area and used its forest for hunting and gathering.
With European settlement beginning in the late 1800’s when only small areas of the forests were cleared for farming. It wasn’t until around 1925 that logging of the native forests in the area began.
Prior to European settlement of the area, the northern Mamaku Plateau was almost entirely tall forest – mostly rimu and tawa, but with some pockets of beech forest around Mangorewa.
Farming attempts then cleared most of the native forests in the park area and parts were still being converted to pine plantations as late as the 1980s.
Tangata whenua are actively consulted to ensure that local history and special features are taken into consideration. This has provided the opportunity to research archaeological records for the Taumata and Ngawaro region, as well as the interpretation of the park’s history from both written and oral accounts.
Ngaitamarawaho (Ngati Ranginui) kaumatua, Des Tata, says the spiritual aspect of the names is very important to tangata whenua and many stories of significance were behind them.
Des says "some of the ancient names go back 18 generations". For example, Te Aro o Raho means the trail that the warrior Raho took when he was chased through the area. Raho used the terrain to his advantage and alluded his pursuers by taking a zig-zag route (pikopiko means winding or zig-zag), hence Mangakopikopiko.
Te Ara o Raho, Mangakopikopiko, Ngawaro, Waimihia and Te Rerenga have been chosen to name the important roads and walking tracks at the park. The names carry with them the Maori history of the park and denote events or sites of significance to local Maori.
The named roads are:
- The roadway between the Arrival Centre and the camp ground is Waimihia Way
- The new road to the west side through the underpass will be named Weld Road in memory of the late Western Bay District Mayor Graeme Weld
- The new 2km loop track to the historic tunnel is Te Rerenga Track
- Darrin Road is renamed Te Ara o Raho (Road)
- Munro Road has been renamed Mangakopikopiko Road
A Cultural and Heritage Assessment was undertaken in 2009. Key findings identified the significant cultural resources within the park so that they can be recognized and provided for in the development of future park programmes and activities.
This research will also ensure the park’s natural, cultural and heritage resources are preserved and protected for the enjoyment of future generations and to enhance the Mauri, or life force, of the park. The diagram below indicates the conservation and sustainability principles that tangata whenua have recommended to the councils.
Park staff are involved in ongoing consultation with tangata whenua representatives from Ngaitamarawaho and Ngati Ruahine, two of the hapu with cultural interests within the park boundaries. This will help to inform and progress sustainable practices and cultural resource recommendations and how they should be incorporated into the park.