Te Urewera is one of the most isolated and largest rainforests in New Zealand.

In 2014, a world-first law brought an end to government ownership of Te Urewera National Park and recognised the rainforest as its own legal entity and the Tūhoe people as its legal guardians.

They protect the precious site through an ancient Maori practice known as kaitiakitanga, which means “guardianship” and is a way of managing the environment based on a Māori worldview. It involves understanding the close connection between people and nature, seeing humans as part of the natural world and protecting the mauri, or life force, of the forests, rivers and lakes under their care.

On a day-to-day level, the Tūhoe people monitore the health of the forest, lakes and rivers through observation and data collection, plant native trees, control pests such as possums and deer and maintain the health of important fish stocks such as river tuna.

Although the Tūhoe welcome visitors, tribal leader Tamati Krugerthe states the challenge is to manage tourist numbers and the impact of tourism on the environment, while taking over the care of the former national park after nearly 70 years of government management.
They propose a different way of tourism where people is invited to see Te Urewera as a living system that others depend on for survival, culture, recreation and inspiration. It’s about relating to Te Urewera as its own identity in a physical, environmental, cultural and spiritual sense.

Indigenous knowledge gives inspiration on how to live in a world straining under mounting environmental pressure.

The Tūhoe people say: “We respect the environment because of our tīpuna (ancestors) and the knowledge about sustainability and living alongside nature handed down to us, but we also respect nature because we want to live amongst it and it needs our help right now.”

They run programmes to protect and restore species, places and heritage, and provide opportunities for people to engage with these treasures, at this protected area.

Tūhoe people are dedicated everyday to the preservation of this sacred rainforest, their identity and cultural heritage, and share their connection with nature, with every visitor at the park. Having regained control of their land after decades of logging by outside interests, members of the Tūhoe community are trying to bring back conifers in the Podocarpaceae family, which they refer to as the chiefs of the family of Tāne, the god of forests and birds.


1. denisbin; Rotorua New Zealand. Fast flowing river with glacial bloom and snow melt chemicals making it very blue; January 11, 2004; (CC BY-ND 2.0). 2. Daniel Pietzsch; View from Panekiri Hut; December 11, 2008; (CC BY-NC 2.0). 3. Department of Conservation; Mokau Falls - Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk; December 21, 2002; (CC BY 2.0). 4. denisbin; Maori carving in workshops training studio at Whakarewarewa park and volcanic area in Rotorua; January 4, 2012; (CC BY-ND 2.0). 5. denisbin; Rotorua. Maori carving near the entrance to Whakarewarewa maori Park and volcanic area; January 4; 2012; (CC BY-ND 2.0). 6. Or Hiltch; Foggy Forest Walk; January 7, 2010; (CC BY-NC 2.0).