Story: Volcanic Plateau region

Page 13. Government, education and health

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Government and Māori

Te Arawa

Te Arawa have had a close relationship with the government for many decades.

  • Ngāti Whakaue made land at Rotorua available for a government town in 1881.
  • Through the 20th century Te Arawa welcomed many high-ranking visitors to New Zealand on behalf of Māoridom.
  • In 1922 Te Arawa conceded that the Crown owned the beds of the Rotorua lakes, in exchange for recognition of some fishing rights and wāhi tapu (sacred sites), compensation, and the establishment of a Trust Board.
  • Volunteers from Te Arawa made up much of the B Company of the 28th Māori battalion in the Second World War.
  • In 2006 the Crown returned ownership of the beds of the Rotorua lakes to the Te Arawa tribal confederation.

Ngāti Tūwharetoa

Ngāti Tūwharetoa held on to much of its land and has had a more even relationship with the Crown than many tribes.

  • In 1887 the paramount chief Horonuku Te Heuheu gifted the summits of Tongariro, Ngāuruhoe and Ruapehu to the Crown for a national park.
  • In 1926 Ngāti Tūwharetoa, led by Hoani Te Heuheu, accepted Crown ownership of the Taupō lake bed in exchange for compensation and the establishment of a trust board. The payments were proportional to government revenue from fishing licences, unlike Te Arawa’s compensation.
  • In 1992 the title to the Taupō lake bed was returned to Tūwharetoa, and a new regime set up for managing the lake’s fisheries and its tributary rivers.

Central and local government

For a long time central government had more influence over the Volcanic Plateau than local government.

From the 1880s to 1950s, the central government promoted the spa at Rotorua, introduced trout into lakes and rivers, built roads, ran schemes for electricity generation, land development and forestry, and set up towns at Mangakino and Tūrangi.

County (rural) government was permanently set up in Rotorua in 1911, and first set up in Taupō in 1922.

For God, king and country

Haane Manahi of Te Arawa was recommended for a Victoria Cross for his bravery in the battle of Takrouna, in North Africa in 1943 – but instead received the Distinguished Conduct Medal. In 1949 King George VI decided that no further awards would be made for service in the Second World War. Only in 2007 was the tribe reconciled to this, when Prince Andrew presented them with an altar cloth for St Faith’s church, a letter from the Queen recognising Manahi’s bravery, and a sword. The three gifts acknowledge God, king and country respectively – as in the marching song of the 28th (Māori) Battalion.

An elected town council was set up in Rotorua in 1923. A town board was established in Taupō in 1946.

Change in the later 20th century

During the period of rapid growth after the Second World War, many government departments established regional offices for the Volcanic Plateau and Bay of Plenty in Rotorua.

In the 1980s and 1990s the government sold many of its farms, forests and power stations in the region.

In 1979 the Rotorua town and county councils united, and in 1989 Taupō’s councils did the same. Since 1989 the Rotorua lakes area has been covered by Environment Bay of Plenty, the area’s regional council. The Reporoa district and Taupō are served by Environment Waikato.

Parliamentary representation

Rotorua has had its own seat in Parliament since 1919, and Taupō since 1963. For voters on the Māori roll, the region was part of the Eastern Māori electorate until 1993. Since then, it has been part of the Waiariki electorate, which also includes the coastal Bay of Plenty.


Waiariki Institute of Technology, set up in 1977, has its main campus in Rotorua and others in Taupō, Tokoroa, Waipā and Whakatāne. Rotorua High School was established in 1927 and benefited from a Ngāti Whakaue endowment. Separate boys’ and girls’ high schools, and Western Heights high school, were established in 1958. Other Rotorua high schools are Rotorua Lakes and John Paul College. Schools that teach in te reo Māori include Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ruamata, Te Kura Kaupapa o Te Koutū and Te Kura o Hīrangi. Reporoa, Taupō Nui-a-Tia, Tauhara and Tongariro are the region’s other high schools.


The Lakes District Health Board runs public hospitals at Rotorua and Taupō, and funds other health services, including Māori providers. The land for Rotorua Hospital was gifted by Ngāti Whakaue in 1881.

How to cite this page:

Malcolm McKinnon, 'Volcanic Plateau region - Government, education and health', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 May 2019)

Story by Malcolm McKinnon, published 1 Nov 2007, updated 25 May 2015