One hundred and thirty years ago today Mt Tarawera woke from many years of slumber bringing devastation to the region, taking about 120 lives in the process.

Today, members of Te Arawa hapu Tuhourangi and Ngati Rangitihi will, weather permitting, make their annual pilgrimage to the top of Mt Tarawera to remember those who died.

The eruption began in the early hours of June 10, 1886, when people woke to earthquakes and ash clouds and saw pillars of molten rock being fired into the air.

By dawn, about six hours later, the eruption had ended, the landscape and the lives of those living on and around the mountain had changed forever.


The eruption caused a 17km long rift, reaching as far as Waimangu, and the world famous Pink and White Terraces were lost under water at Lake Rotomahana.

The blast buried or destroyed the settlements of Te Tapahoro, Moura, Te Ariki, Totarariki, Waingongongo and Te Wairoa.

Members of the Ruawahia 2B Trust are the kaitiaki (guardians) of the top of the mountain and represent the interests of Te Arawa hapu Ngati Rangitihi.

The annual pilgramage to the top of Mt Tarawera for the 125th anniversary of the eruption in 2011. Photo/File
The annual pilgramage to the top of Mt Tarawera for the 125th anniversary of the eruption in 2011. Photo/File

Trust chairman Tipene Marr said today's commemorations were about remembering the dead and those who suffered during and after the eruption.

"Our people used to live at Tarawera and the eruption forced the hapu to Matata, some moved to Rotorua."

He said a range of memorial events would happen, in conjunction with Te Arawa hapu Tuhourangi, who also suffered greatly during the eruption and who were invited to live at Whakarewarewa after the eruption by another hapu - Ngati Wahiao - with whom they still live.

Tuhourangi's Rangitihi Pene said kaumatua and people young and old would be remembering their ancestors and also looking to the future, along with members of Ngati Wahiao.

"It helps reconnect us with our past every time this comes around. For a long time the only commemoration was held at the Buried Village.

"We are looking forward to getting together with [Ngati] Rangitihi as survivors of the eruption to start with, then we have separate things planned," Mr Pene said.

"I'm most looking forward to commemorating those who have passed on in the last few years at the whanau time at Punaromia (The Orchard)," he said.

Plans for the day include a dawn mission to the top of the mountain, speeches and a haka, then back down for breakfast at the Lake Rerewhakaaitu DOC camp before other trips are planned on Lake Rotomahana, the Buried Village and Tarawera Landing.

A whanau remembrance service will also be held at The Orchard - Punaromia, where whanau will be invited to bring photos and tell the stories of their ancestors.