Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Preserving the Outstanding

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posted on 2022-07-31, 23:07 authored by Barth, Nick

Tongariro National Park lies in the central North Island, and is home to one of the most accessible and incredible volcanic regions in the world. The largest volcano in the park, Mt Ruapehu, gets the most use for supporting three different ski fields on its slopes. Whakapapa ski area, on the north western side of the mountain, currently operates around mid-June to early October (snow conditions permitting), and is open year round to sightseers who are able to access more of the mountain than ever before via a newly installed gondola. While this current operation is relatively successful, the mountain is paradoxically still under appreciated and simultaneously getting worn down by use. In this context, the mountain faces an ever-growing problem: climate change. Snow is becoming less reliable each season, putting pressure on the field to stay open through means other than snow sports.

Currently, key users of the maunga include day walkers, mountaineers, rock and ice climbers, skiers, and snow play tourists. Some of these activities are more/better catered to than others. This is where there is opportunity to expand the operations and facilities of the mountain in a sustainable way that respects the maunga, and allows people to fully appreciate all that it has to offer.

Well-designed landscape planning could also help to minimise some of the pressures currently placed on the mountain’s environment. While the gondola has substantially increased the amount of people traveling up to the mountain, there are few marked trails and subsequently people are often left roaming free. This is contributing to erosion of the landscape, and can cause ecological damage. There is also a disconnect from the ground when on the gondola, meaning that those who are able to - or choose to - walk are getting a far superior experience, as they get to connect with the mountain and be immersed in the landscape.

This thesis will look to design accessible experiences across the mountain that will engage people with the landscape and celebrate the beauty of the maunga. The journey that is created for all users of the mountain to enjoy will be functional year round to aid the area in diversifying its activities, and will encourage movement that is not detrimental to the landscape. In essence, it will strive to make human interaction with and appreciation of the mountain more sustainable.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Landscape Architecture

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture