about - stratfordmount

Mission and Purpose

Our Mission

To cultivate a space of hospitality and learning for the community to enjoy, while connecting with the Maunga (Mount Taranaki) and gaining insight into Maori culture and people. 

Our Purpose

The Mountain House is part of Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Trust, which is the controlling entity overseeing the Crown settlement assets and the subsidiary companies. By extending hospitality and accommodation through The Mountain House, our purpose is to give invitation to the community (nationally and internationally) to participate and enjoy in the Mountain. By doing so we bring awareness to the environment, sacredness of the land, and give insight into the Maori culture. Profits from The Mountain House are extended towards a range of activities that directly contribute to the health, wellbeing and support of the Ngati Ruanui peoples. We believe Mount Taranaki is a sacred and beautiful place for all to enjoy, and as the caretakers of this Maunga, we have a responsibility to look after and provide an environment for everyone to utilise and benefit from. 


History of Maunga Taranaki

Maunga Taranaki was formally known as Pukeonaki and Pukehaupapa. Legend has it that Maunga Taranaki once stood in the area around Lake Rotoaira (near Turangi and Ruapehu, Tongariro and Pihanga Maunga).

Pukeonaki and Tongariro loved Pihanga and following conflict between the two aspiring lovers, Pukeonaki with scars of battle (or heartache as some say) withdrew underground coming up in the Whanganui Valley led by the stone Rauhoto (which is now found at the Puniho marae) and companions Te Rau-Uhiuhi and Wheoi entering the sea off Whanganui.
When Pukeonaki resurfaced he saw Pouakai Maunga inland and following the Hangatahua River (Stony River) inland he resurfaced beside Pouakai. The stone Rauhoto continued to the north eastern side of Pouakai turning westward at the gap between Pouakai and Kaitake. The offspring of Pukeonaki and Pouakai became the trees, plants, unique bird life and rivers that flow from the Maunga.

From this story arises the Taranaki saying:
Tu Ke Tongariro
Motu ke a Taranaki
He riri kia Pihanga
Waiho muri nei
Te Uri ko au eee

Polynesian explorer Taikeha and his wife’s voyage of discovery on seeing the Maunga gave him the name Pukehaupapa.

Early History of Ngati Ruanui

The Ngati Ruanui Iwi (tribe) whakapapa links them to the Maunga. The iwi name is from the Hawaiiki ancestor Ruanui o Pookiwa and Ruanui o Taaneroroa, the latter being the grandson of Tui Ariki (leader and navigator of the Aotea waka).

In the 1300’s the Aotea waka (a double canoe) was built by Toto from half a great tree from Hawaiiki, the other half was used for the canoe Matahourua. Toto gave the Aotea waka to his daughter Rongorongo who was married to Turi.

The Aotea waka arrived at Aotea Harbour (south of Raglan) on the west coast of the North Island and its people eventually settled in the South Taranaki region (between the Whenuakura river in the south to the Stratford side of Maunga Taranaki in the north.

Ngati Ruanui and the Land Wars

Ngati Ruanui resisted the sale of land at the time of early European settlement and in the 1850s made a pact with the other iwi of Taranaki and elsewhere to oppose further land sales.

By 1860 no Ngati Ruanui land had been sold and they provided active support to Te Atiawa and Nga Rauru in resisting land sales particularly the sales of blocks at Waitara and Waitara.

Resistance to the survey of the Pekapeka block at Waitara was deemed an act of rebellion by the Crown and they commenced hostilities in the province in 1860 resulting in Ngati Ruanui entering the war on the side of the non-sellers.

That phase of the land wars ended in 1861, but just two years later fighting flared up again and spread to South Taranaki during which the Crown troops occupied the land without formal confiscation or purchase. (Confiscations were proclaimed later in 1865, including the confiscation of 352,000 acres of Ngati Ruanui and Nga Ruahine land).

The land wars continued and a scorched earth campaign was ramped up by the Crown troops resulting in Maori villages and crops being levelled as the Crown sought to reduce the fighting ability of those they considered rebels. These campaigns resulted in much loss of life and property for Ngati Ruanui.

In 1865 the mountain was confiscated from Maori by the New Zealand Government under the powers of the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863, ostensibly as a means of establishing and maintaining peace amid the Second Taranaki War. The legislation was framed with the purported intention of seizing and dividing up the land of Maori “in rebellion” and providing it as farmland for military settlers. The mountain was confiscated despite clear evidence it was unusable for farming and otherwise uninhabitable.

At the end of the land war in 1869, some 233 Pakakohi men, women and children of Ngati Ruanui surrendered following promises they would not be killed, however 96 were tried for treason and 74 sentenced to death. These death sentences were subsequently commuted to 3 to 7 years’ imprisonment in the South Island. The prisoners experienced very harsh conditions resulting in 18 men dying before the release of the remaining prisoners 3 years later.

Compensation and Settlement

The compensation process under the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863 for lost lands was faulted from the start in that Maori who took part in the land wars or supported those in the land wars were excluded from compensation. By 1880 recompense had been awarded to only 4% of Ngati Ruanui claimants. While the West Coast Commission was appointed to remedy the wrong doing the purchase of land continued both within the confiscation area (where often money was paid but no deed of sale drawn up) and outside the confiscation boundary without a full investigation of customary title.

Ngati Ruanui were also involved in the acts of passive resistance of land acquisition organised by Parihaka prophets Te Whiti and Tohu resulting in the 1881 sacking of the site by 1,500 Crown troops and expelling from the settlement some 1,600 men, women and children.

A few years later the West Coast Commission finalised the return of limited land to iwi in Taranaki but done so under individual title and placed under the control of the Public Trustee. Much of this land was farmed by settlers under perpetually renewable leases at non market rates. Additionally because of the ability of the Public and Maori Trustees to alienate certain types of land over 60% of the ‘returned’ land was sold by 1974.

The Sim Commission of 1926-27 investigation of the land confiscation was also limited and it recommended an annuity of 5,000 pounds to compensate all of the iwi of Taranaki for lost land.

A further one off sum of 300 pounds was also paid to compensate the loss of property at Parihaka and both these payments were enshrined in the Taranaki Maori Claims Settlement Act 1944 which states that Maori had agreed to accept the sums as full settlement for the confiscations of land.
The mountain was returned to the people of Taranaki in 1978 by means of the Mount Egmont Vesting Act 1978, which vested it to the Taranaki Maori Trust Board. By means of the same Act, it was immediately passed back to the Government as a gift to the nation.

The Waitangi Tribunal, in its 1996 report, Kaupapa Tuatahi observed: “We are unaware of the evidence that the hapu agreed to this arrangement. Many who made submissions to us were adamant that most knew nothing of it.” 

In acknowledging prior unfair settlements for land confiscation and treatment the Crown have recently renegotiated settlements with iwi with Ngati Ruanui being one of the earliest to agree to a settlement in 2007.

Stratford Mountain House History

The Mountain House is situated on Mount Taranaki some 14 kilometers from Stratford via Pembroke Road.

The Mountain House is also situated on original Ngati Ruanui rohe as can be seen by the below map which is based on the Area of Interest agreed between Ngati Ruanui and the Crown in the Deed of Settlement between those two parties.

Mount Taranaki has been a source of constant inspiration and awe to the people of Taranaki, Maori and European alike. The early European settlers recognising this realised the potential of the Mountain as a tourist attraction and made large efforts to construct a suitable and easy access road. This was first meant to be Pembroke Road, but a large swamp, thought to be impossible to cross, halted construction for a number of years. The road was finally completed sometime in the 1880s.

With a suitable access road the number of visitors to the mountain increased rapidly, creating the need for a public shelter to be built. The first house on the Stratford side was built on the Plateau (1219 metre above sea level) and completed on 16 February 1899 by Messrs Curtis and Penn. Because the Plateau road had not been built materials would have been taken up by horse-drawn sledge. Owing to limited funds, this was only a basic shack with an iron roof and canvas sides. This shelter was described as The Stratford Sanatorium, as the mountain air was seen as being good for the health.

During the next year the canvas was replaced with corrugated iron. The success of the shelter with the continued increase in visitor numbers saw it upgraded yet again into a two-roomed cottage with a fenced area.

Although the Plateau provided the cottage with stunning views of both Mount Taranaki, the mountains of the central plateau and the Taranaki province, it did not protect it against the harsh weather conditions. Storms were frequent and resulting snow, wind or rain had adverse effects on the building. Therefore in 1908 the building was dismantled and moved down to its present site at 951 metres above sea level. Gradual verandas were added onto the building to provide extra shelter.

A telephone office was opened at the Mountain House on 4 September 1913, under the name of Potaema (meaning white cap). The office would be closed during the winter months as very few tourists came up then. This was operated by the owner of the Mountain House at the time, or the owners family. In 1947 the Stratford Chamber of Commerce requested that the name be changed to Stratford Mountain House, a more appropriate name due to the increased number of tourists. This was approved by the NZ Geographic Board on 27 May 1947. In September 1988, after 75 years of service, the telephone office was closed, with Keith Anderson being the last telephonist.

Early owners are unknown, but from 1927 to 1934 Miss Hilda Haldane owned it, followed by the Carryer’s who owned it until 1939. John and Eileen Hennessy took over until 1951 making a lot of successful changes in that time. They added another story for bunkrooms in 1950, provided casual meals and catering for large parties and general improvements to the buildings.

Eileen described the Mountain House when they moved in as being “just a great barn with two bunkrooms containing several very crude bunks and two small rooms at the other end. The main room had a huge open fireplace with its corrugated iron walls.”

The Hennessy’s also saw the arrival of electricity to the Mountain House but this often failed due to storms bringing trees and branches down onto the lines. One storm tore the whole roof off the bunkhouse causing chaos.

From 1951 to 1959 John and Muff Hennessy owned it being followed by Snow and Lorna Mace until 1983. The Mace’s built separate chalets to accommodate more affluent visitors and in 1977 they had the main building pulled down and a new complex built to sleep up to 80 people, erected a boiler room and a ski-hire building. The main bulk of the rebuild still exists today.

Ben and Gladys Candy took over for two years and were followed by Keith and Berta Anderson in 1985 to 2008, having run Dawson Falls Lodge for 11 years prior they ran the Mountain House for 23 years building up its reputation in that time. Keith was unfortunately killed in a car accident in early 2003 but Berta carried on running the Mountain House until selling in 2008 to Karl Reipen a recent settler from Germany.

Karl Reipen set about bringing the accommodation chalets and units up to modern standards expected of discerning tourists but after two years sold it to Ngati Ruanui iwi in May 2010.

Ngati Ruanui view the Maunga as part of their whakapapa, this being the main reason for wanting a presence on the Maunga and thus a greater say in its future. They too set about making extensive renovations to the main building, completely gutting the interior and recreating a new café, restaurant, bar and kitchen to the best standard of the day reopening in February 2011.

Since that time the Ngati Ruanui Stratford Mountain House has acted host to many guests, weddings, conferences etc. and received fantastic reviews and complements on the warm welcome received, the comfortable surroundings, the ambience within the building and not least the fine food and wine available.

We trust you too will enjoy the experience when you next visit us.