First PagePrevious PageBack to overview

Taranaki (Mount)

My goal is to photograph Taranaki with the lighthouse at point Egmont in the foreground at sunset. Some chance though, the summit of Taranaki usually hides in the clouds and I live miles away, but its a nice trip down there and New Plymouth is always worth a visit. If walking or tramping is your thing (not mine) then there are over 300K over walks through the National Park, abseiling down waterfalls and of course skiing in winter.

My best effort yet, but not at sunset

Mount Taranaki/Egmont facts and Figures

Taranaki, Mt. Egmont
Elevation 2,518 m (8,261 ft)
Location North Island, New Zealand
Prominence 2,308 metres (7,572 ft)[1]
Coordinates [show location on an interactive map] 39°18′0″S, 174°4′0″E
Topo map NZMS 169 Egmont National Park
Type Stratovolcano
Last eruption 1755
First ascent Dr. Ernst Dieffenbach & James Heberly, 1839[2]
Easiest route Mount Taranaki Summit Track (trail)

Mount Taranaki or Mount Egmont is a dormant stratovolcano in the Taranaki region on the west coast of New Zealand's North Island. The 2518-metre-high mountain is one of the most symmetrical volcanic cones in the world. There is a secondary cone, Fanthams Peak, on the south side. Because of its resemblance to Mount Fuji, Taranaki provided the backdrop for the movie The Last Samurai.

Taranaki is geologically young, having commenced activity approximately 135,000 years ago. The most recent volcanic activity was a moderate ash eruption, of the size of Ruapehu's activity in 1995/1996, that occurred about 1755 and possibly in the early 1800s, and the last major eruption occurred around 1655. Recent research has shown that over the last 9000 years minor eruptions have occurred roughly every 90 years on average, with major eruptions every 500 years.


Taranaki is considered unusual in that it has experienced at least five of its major eruptions by the method of cone collapse. Few volcanoes have undergone more than one cone collapse. The vast volume of material involved in these collapses is reflected in the extensive ringplain surrounding the volcano. There is also evidence of lahars being a common result of eruption.

Much of the region is at risk from lahars, which have reached as far as the coast. A volcanic event is unnecessary: even earthquakes combined with heavy rain or snow could dislodge vast quantities of unstable layers resting on steep slopes. Many farmers live in the paths of such possible destructive events.

Although volcanic eruptions are notoriously chaotic in their frequency, some scientists warn that a large eruption is “overdue”. Research from Massey University indicates that significant seismic activity is likely again in the next 50 years. Prevailing winds would probably blow ash east, covering much of the North Island, and disrupting air routes, power transmission lines and local water supplies.

The mountain's name

For many centuries the mountain was called Taranaki by Māori. Captain Cook named it Mount Egmont after John Perceval, 2nd Earl of Egmont, the First Lord of the Admiralty who promoted Cook's first voyage. It appeared as Mt Egmont on maps until the 1980s, when it was ruled that the official name is Mount Taranaki or Mount Egmont, although most regard the two names as interchangeable. The Egmont name still applies to the national park that surrounds the peak. The name Mount Taranaki is linguistically redundant, since the word tara means mountain peak. Naki is thought to come from ngaki, meaning shining, a reference to the snow-clad winter nature of the upper slopes. Geologists refer to it as the Egmont Volcano.

Confiscated from Maori

In 1865 the mountain was confiscated from Māori 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 Māori “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.

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[4], observed: “We are unaware of the evidence that the hapu agreed to this arrangement. Many who made submssions to us were adamant that most knew nothing of it.” It cited a submission that suggested the political climate of 1975 was such that the board felt it was necessary to perform a gesture of goodwill designed to create a more favourable environment within which a monetary settlement could be negotiated.

For more information on land confiscations during the New Zealand Land Wars, see Waitara, New Zealand

National park

In 1881, a circular area with a radius of six miles (9.6 km) from the summit was protected as a Forest Reserve. Areas encompassing the older volcanic remnants of Pouakai and Kaitake were later added to the reserve and in 1900 all this land was gazetted as Egmont National Park, the second national park in New Zealand. With intensively-farmed dairy pasture reaching right up to the mostly-circular park boundary, the change in vegetation is sharply delineated in satellite images.


The Stratford Mountain Club operates the Manganui skifield on the eastern slope. Equipment access to the skifield is by flying fox across the Manganui Gorge.

Taranaki is a relatively easy mountain to climb and many do so each summer. It takes a reasonably fit person a day to make the up-and-back climb. However, weather on the mountain can change rapidly, catching inexperienced trampers unawares. A number of people have died on the mountain after being caught unprepared in bad weather. This mountain is possibly the most dangerous in New Zealand, with a reputation for the highest annual fatalities.


According to Maori mythology, Taranaki once resided in the middle of the North Island, with all the other New Zealand volcanoes. The beautiful Pihanga was coveted by all the mountains, and a great battle broke out between them. Tongariro eventually won the day, inflicted great wounds on the side of Taranaki, and causing him to flee. Taranaki headed westwards, following Te Toka a Rauhotu (the Rock of Rauhotu) and forming the deep gorges of the Whanganui River, then heading north, forming Te Ngaere swamp. Further progress was blocked by the Pouakai ranges, and as the sun came up Taranaki became petrified in his current location. When Taranaki conceals himself wih rainclouds, he is said to be crying for his lost love, and during spectacular sunsets, he is said to be displaying himself to her. In turn, Tongariro's eruptions are said to be a warning to Taranaki not to return.


There are three roads leading part-way up the mountain. The highest is to East Egmont plateau, with a viewing platform and parking facilities for the skifield. It lies at the transition between subalpine scrub and alpine herbfields.

There are park visitor centres at North Egmont and at Dawson Falls on the southeast side.

The eastern side from Stratford leads to the Stratford Mountain House, and the ski field.

There is no road access on the western side. However, a road winds for 10 km though native bush over the saddle between Pouakai and Kaitake. Near the top of this road is the renowned Pukeiti Trust rhododendron garden.

Older volcanoes in the area

Taranaki sits upon the remains of three older volcanic complexes which lie to the northwest. The Indo-Australian Plate is slowly moving relative to the magma source which feeds these volcanoes. This trend is reflected in Fanthams Peak, the newer secondary cone on the southeast side of Taranaki.

The oldest volcanic remnants consist of a series of lava plugs: Paritutu rock, which forms part of New Plymouth's harbour, and the Sugar Loaf Islands close offshore. These have been dated at 1.75 million years.

On the coast 15 km southwest of New Plymouth is the Kaitake range, last active approximately 500,000 years ago.

Nearest to Taranaki is the Pouakai complex. Pouakai may have originated around the same time as Kaitake but remained active until about 240,000 years ago. Much of Pouakai's large ringplain was obliterated by the Egmont Volcano, the hills near Eltham

SEE: New Zealand Geology and Earthquakes

First PagePrevious PageBack to overview

Egmont (Taranaki) National Park Website

volcanos_and_faultlines/taranaki.txt · Last modified: 2011/02/27 14:19 by art
CC Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International Valid CSS Driven by DokuWiki do yourself a favour and use a real browser - get firefox!! Recent changes RSS feed Valid XHTML 1.0