Story: King Country places
Page 8 – National Park
Township 34 kilometres south-east of Taumarunui. Raurimu began life as a railway construction camp or ‘tent town’ in the early 20th century. The famous Raurimu spiral on the main trunk railway line was constructed between 1905 and 1908 so trains could manage the area’s steep gradients. Between 1,500 and 2,000 people (mainly men) lived in the camp in this period.
In 1997 Raurimu hit the headlines for tragic reasons. Stephen Anderson shot and killed his father, four guests staying at the family’s Raurimu holiday home and a local man, and wounded four others. Anderson was found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity and detained in a mental institution.
A more permanent township emerged near the camp site from 1907. Tents were replaced by wooden buildings, and the settlement was supported by farming and sawmilling once the original railway workers left. Some residents were permanent railways employees. Raurimu’s gender imbalance slowly disappeared – in 1926 women were 41% of the population, compared to 25% in 1906.
In December 1925 a devastating fire swept through Raurimu and almost destroyed the entire commercial area of the township. Rebuilding occurred and some businesses were re-established, but the population declined from this period. The police station closed in 1957, followed by the railway station and the last remaining sawmills in the mid-1960s, and the post office in 1977. However, its proximity to the ski fields of Mt Ruapehu meant that Raurimu assumed a new (albeit low-key) identity as a holiday town in the later 20th century.
King Country artist
Painter Edward (Ted) Lattey farmed in the Upper Retaruke valley south of Kaitīeke in the 1920s. After he left the King Country he became a professional artist and was known for his paintings of native forests, including King Country scenes. He was close to his cousin, well-known artist Dorothy Richmond. His work is held in several major galleries and museums.
Rural settlement 13 kilometres north-west of Raurimu. The landscape comprises steep, rugged hills and valleys, once covered in thick native forest. European settlers arrived in the early 1900s and most of the forest was felled between 1908 and 1916. Small sawmills operated in the district from the 1920s.
During the First World War and the 1930s depression some farmers abandoned their land. By the mid-1930s around half the land cleared for farms reverted to fern and scrub. High rainfall also caused soils to leach and lose their fertility. The advent of aerial fertiliser topdressing after the Second World War improved farming conditions. Kaitīeke School opened in 1910.
Rural settlement 28 kilometres south-west of Kaitīeke. Whakahoro is near the junction of the Whanganui and Retaruke rivers. A Department of Conservation campsite is located next to the Whanganui River.
Township 38 kilometres south of Taumarunui at the intersection of state highways 4 and 47, with a 2006 population of 240. National Park is a base for visitors to the Tongariro National Park and ski fields. The township was originally called Waimarino but changed to National Park in 1926 because of its close associations with Tongariro National Park.
Alpine settlement on the north-western slopes of Mt Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park, 18 kilometres east of National Park township. Whakapapa is 1,100 metres above sea level, which makes it the highest permanent settlement in New Zealand. In the early 2000s around 150 people lived there year-round, and the population more than doubled in the winter when seasonal employees moved in.
Because Whakapapa is within Tongariro National Park, the Department of Conservation is the local authority. Businesses are charged a community levy which pays for amenities and services such as a sewerage system and rubbish collection.
Rural settlement 23 kilometres north-east of National Park on State Highway 47. Taurewa was founded in 1937 after the Egmont Box Company was granted a concession to fell native trees in Taurewa State Forest. State houses were built at Taurewa in 1940.
By the early 1960s most of the forest had been felled and the buildings were moved elsewhere or abandoned. Avondale College of Auckland leased the remaining buildings from 1973 for an outdoor education camp.
Rural settlement 6 kilometres south of National Park on State Highway 4. A state forest was established at Erua in 1930. In the 2000s Erua was a base from which to explore Tongariro National Park and the surrounding district.