Visit to the Waimangu Scenic Reserve

Caraline Abbott —  27/11/2014

Around 150 people lost their lives in the Tarawera Eruption of 1886 and the area, now occupied by the Waimangu Scenic Reserve, was completely devastated.

The massive eruption opened the earth along a 17 kilometre line, splitting Mount Tarawera in two, exploding Lake Rotomahana to 20 times its original size, and forming the seven craters that today make up the Waimangu Volcanic Valley.

The view over Waimangu Scenic Reserve.

Glorious view over Waimangu Scenic Reserve

Harvey James manages the Waimangu Volcanic Valley and he recently invited DOC staff to visit and see the projects that are being worked on at Waimangu that are directly benefiting conservation.

DOC staff sitting on a platform during the visit to Waimangu.

DOC staff visiting Waimangu

It was a great to visit this beautiful forested area and learn about the range of unique geothermal vegetation.

The area is thought to be the only example of New Zealand native forest naturally regenerating from complete devastation.

All of New Zealand’s thermal plants are represented at Waimangu. However, the reserve is not pest free.

Frying Pan Lake.

Frying Pan Lake maintains a temperature of 50 – 60°C

Significant effort has gone in to removing invasive plants and animals throughout the reserve, although it was clear that such species were still a problem in the area.

When we were walking along one track the prevalence of pests in the reserve was emphasised when a cheeky rat decided to make a guest appearance and paraded in a kānuka shrub.

A rat spotted in the kānuka.

The cheeky rat in the kānuka

After lunch we were treated to a boat tour through Lake Rotomahana Wildlife refuge and were able to see some of the work DOC has been involved with in this area, including the ongoing Tarawera Pine project.

Along the tour we also learnt about the efforts underway to make Patiti Island (in the middle of Lake Rotomahana) pest free.

The removal of pigs in recent years has significantly contributed to the well-being of the island but mice are an ongoing concern for local birdlife.

The Inferno Crater steaming.

The beautiful Inferno Crater

It was a fantastic visit to Waimangu Volcanic Valley and it was great to see the conservation gains that are being made and the projects that are planned to tackle the invasive species.

Caraline Abbott


I'm an English-born Kiwi and have worked for DOC since 2013. I'm part of the partnerships team that works to build relationships with iwi, businesses and the wider community to grow conservation. I'm really luck y to live in a really interesting part of New Zealand with lots of geothermal warmth, rare geothermal vegetation and some threatened birds that are benefiting from the work of DOC and our partners.

3 responses to Visit to the Waimangu Scenic Reserve


    Awesome post.

    Lynnette Ward 28/11/2014 at 9:14 am

    The whole Mt Tarawera thing has fascinated me since I was ten years old. It was the topic of my speech project in 1958!


    This is my favourite geothermal park of all the ones I’ve been to in the area.