6249 Lake Road, Urewera National Park, Wairoa
The North Island's largest forested wilderness is to be found in Te Urewera, much of which is remote and not easy to access. One of its gems is Lake Waikaremoana in the south, formed by a massive landslide some 2200 years ago. There, boating, kayaking and fishing can be enjoyed. Te Urewera also has an extensive walking system. Hunters are also catered for.
Te Urewera is the homeland of the Tuhoe people who have never signed the Treaty of Waitangi, and now negotiated with the Crown for its return. Since 2014, Te Urewera is no longer a National Park, but a separate legal entity governed by the Te Urewera Board which comprises joint Tuhoe and Crown membership.
Section 3 of the Act says:
(1) Te Urewera is ancient and enduring, a fortress of nature, alive with history; its scenery is abundant with mystery, adventure, and remote beauty.
(2) Te Urewera is a place of spiritual value, with its own mana and mauri.
(3) Te Urewera has an identity in and of itself, inspiring people to commit to its care.
Te Urewera is still open to the public and the visitor centre which used to serve the Department of Conservation base here, Aniwaniwa, has been replaced with a new Tuhoe version.
Aniwaniwa was a work of architectural merit by (the first registered Maori architect) John Scott designed 'to respond to the immense importance of its surroundings through carefully considered form and pathways to honour the beauty and wairua of the landscape, and function as a storehouse of invaluable taonga'. Despite protest from the architecture fraternity the visitor centre it was contraversially demolished with the justification that it leaked. Photographer David Straight recorded the building in its final days. The visitor centre once housed a famous Colin McCahon mural as well as being a museum.
In June 1997 the McCahon mural was removed from Aniwaniwa in the dead of night by Tuhoe activists and remained missing for 15 months. It was finally recovered after negotiations between wealthy Auckland art patron Jenny Gibbs and Tuhoe activist, Tame Iti.
Here at Waikaremoana, after the demise of the Aniwaniwa Centre, a spectacular combined Tribal Office for Tuhoe and visitor centre, Te Wharehou O Waikaremoana has been constructed to a design by Tennentbrown with an emphasis sustainability. Ngai Tuhoe are committed to ecological principles, especially those which coincide with their own principles of communal living. Te Wharehou has been built to the living building standard, with a large central room, galleries and displays on the Tuhoe culture. And a large verandah for trampers. It is also on the side of the lake whereby Aniwaniwa was in a bush setting.
The associated camping ground, is also now run under Te Urewera Trust, and there are other campsites spread around the lake.
The runaway McCahon mural is now housed in another new Tuhoe Building, Te Uru Taumatua in** **Taneatua. A third shiny new architectural jewel in the Tuhoe Crown is in Ruatahuna. The tribe known as 'Children of the Mist' have ambitions to expand on tourism following their settlement with the crown. And it could well start right here. Waikaremoana is still beautiful, and many tracks cut and maintained by the Department of Conservation enable outdoor activities.
From the visitor centre, the Hinerau track, a short, 1.2km walk takes in some spectacular waterfalls.
This 1987 documentary from NZonScreen describes the park and the people in full.
Stay at Lake House Waikaremoana by Marcus King
"Katherine Mansfield filled the first half of her 'Urewera Notebook' during a 1907 camping tour of the central North Island, shortly before she left New Zealand forever. Her camping notes offer a rare insight into her attitude to her life at the time, and her country of birth, not in retrospective fiction but as a 19-year-old still living in the colony."