History of the area

The area known as Ngatuhoa is at the northern end of the Mamaku plateau – a wide, generally flat plateau dissected by deep gorges carved by spring-fed streams draining from the south towards the Tauranga harbor.

It is a volcanic terrain formed by large eruptions in the recent past ( geologically speaking). The greatest of these, thousands of years ago, was from the Rotorua caldera. The lava contained so much gas that it exploded below the surface and blasted a great hole in the ground. ( Now filled with water, this is lake Rotorua.)

Hot gases, pumice and ash spread across the land at tremendous speed before settling, sticking together and cooling into a rock called ignimbrite.

The ignimbrite layer, which is on an ancient greywacke rock base, ranges from 15 to 150 metres thick.

Since the Rotorua eruption, smaller ones such as Mount Tarawera 900 years ago have deposited further layers of ash (tepra) on top of the ignimbrite. These layers can be seen on the banks of the roads in the area. The best place to observe ignimbrite is in the stream beds with their many cracks and holes.

Plants and trees grew out of the ash layers and today the plateau is largely covered by typical North Island podocarp/hardwood forest, with isolated pockets of kauri and beech, widely dispersed.

The first people to inhabit this area about 250 years ago were the Ngati Ranginui tribe.

Originaly the tribe's home was Mauao (Mount Manganui) and their territory extended from Maketu to Katikati and inland to the crest of the Kaimai range, Puwhenua, Otanewainuku, Otawa and including Tuhua (Mayor Island). Around the mid 1700s they were invaded by the Ngai Te Rangi people from the eastern Bay of Plenty and most were killed and buried on the beach.(Quite recently a heavy sea uncovered some of the skeletal remains, reviving memmories of that tragic day). 

The survivors retreated inland and became a subtribe or hapu of the Ngati Ranginui. They settled in various forified pa around the Ruahihi, Pyes Pa and Oropi areas. some of the sites are still clearly evident today.

Because the rich seafood in the Tauranga harbour was taken over by the Ngai Te Rangi these people had to find food in forests and streams in their new environment and were given the name "bush dwellers'.

After the Land Wars, which ended in 1864, an area of 50,000 acres was confiscated by the Government.

This land extended from Tauranga harbour, between the Wairoa and Waimapu rivers and southwards to the edge of the forest, and was largely occupied by the Ngati Hangarau. The confiscation left the Ngati Hangarau people with only a heavily-forested area from what is now the junction of the Omanawa and McLarensFalls Roads and between the Opuiaki and the Omanawa rivers and a few miles southwards. Interesting features of this land today include  Kauri trees scattered through most of the Mangapapa Gorge, and a number of streams which have been diverted for a hydro electric power scheme. Much of of the forest beyond and to the west of the Ngati Hangarau land is government-owned and is included in the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest park.

Another 18,000 acres was bought by the Gammon brothers who established a timber mill at Omanawa in 1908. About 1000 acres was logged, cleared and grassed for farming, but it was doomed to failure because of a cobalt deficiency in the soil which afflicted the Tauranga district in those days. The area was planted in Radiata pines  which has since been logged and farming attempted again.

Adjoining it is the government-owned Puwhenua block, covering 4500 acres. about 2000 acres is designated virgin forest reserve. The area immediately to the north is Maori-owned and though it was extensively logged by the Frankham brothers up until 1975 most of it is still virgin forest.

Other Maori-owned land is being used for exotic forests.

In the midst of all this stands the Ngatuhoa Lodge, in picturesque surroundings of streams, waterfalls and native bush that echoes with birdsong. Our wish is that the thousands of young New Zealanders (and older ones, too) who stay here will enjoy their every moment in this lovely environment. And we hope that when they leave they will take with them a greater appreciation of their natural inheritance and an awareness of what they can do to help protect it.

History of the Lodge

1967: Discussion started about starting up another Outward Bound School, a working party was formed led by Bill Kennedy, a site was chosen, then reality set in and the project was down scaled to an outdoor facility. The constitution was copied from the Lions Hut Waimana. Building commenced late 1967 under the direction of the late Vic Mansell, the framing timber (Redwood) came from logs felled on Laurie Singleton's farm Te Puke, milled by Gil Roper at the Waimapu Mill (Yatton Park). The flooring was donated by the Hutt Timber Co. The three ply lining from a Rimu Log logged from the Opuiaki area by Jim Geraghty, pealed into plywood by our first patron J.J. Houthuzen of HT Houthuzen Plywood's factory at Gate Pa. First use was by Otumoetai Intermediate School in 1968, Teacher was Graham Wood ( on the committee to 2013.)

The Lodge initially had about 32 bunks, In the main dining room and two side rooms by the kitchen, with toilets inside(stoves are now where one toilet was and the other is now the pantry). The official opening of the lodge was done by John Ure Conservator of Forests NZ Forest Service 1968.(lease was at $1.00 per year).The lodge proved to be too small and the bunkroom extension was started soon after and completed by 1970, this extension was opened by David Field the then current Conservator of Forests.

The recreation hall was originally an old shed from Houthuzens plywood factory, the factory was being relocated to the Mount. The shed was dismantled and transported up to the lodge in sections then reassembled on site. At first the shed was used with a dirt floor, a working bee was organised to pour a concrete floor inside the old shed. Later it was decided to replace the old shed with a new building, The Lions Club of Otumoetai undertook this project, hence the sloping walls to make use of the existing floor.

The next project undertaken was the side bunkrooms, followed by the latest large project rebuilding the toilet block a very elegant amenity block. recently a improved sewerage treatment plant has been installed to overcome problems experienced with poor drainage in the field tiles. 

The legend of Te Rere I Oturo (The Leap of Oturu)

There lived once upon a time a member of the Ngati Ranginui hapu whose name was Oturu. He lived with his wife and family in one of the several fortified pa in the Ruahihi region near the upper reaches of the Wairoa River. He was born and grew up in the area and was thoroughly familiar with all the forest and streams which fed into Wairoa near his home. He frequently made excursions into the forest, travelling up the Ngatuhoa and the Opuiaki Streams where he caught many fat eels and snared many fat pigeons.

Always he would stay away for several days, before returning to his family with only a few small ill-fed pigeons and some skinny eels. While his family showed increasing evidence of malnutrition, Oturu managed to stay in very good shape and it became obvious to everyone that he was consuming the best eels and pigeons in the forest himself and bringing only the skinny ones home.

Oturu's wife had two brothers whose attention was drawn to the disparity in the physical condition of Oturu and his wife and children. They decided to follow him on one of his hunting excursions to satisfy themselves that their suspicions were correct. After observing him for two or three days dining sumptuously on fine, fat pigeons and storing the skinny ones to take home, they decided to swoop.

Oturu took off downstream with his wife's brothers in hot pursuit. The flat rock in the stream bed made for fast travelling so the desperate Oturu, knowing that capture probably meant death, kept to the bed of the stream until he reached the top of the 42-metre-high waterfall. With his two brothers-in-law closing in fast, the only escape was over the edge. He took a flying leap....

The legend ends here. Whether Oturu survived his adventure is left to our imaginations.