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The setting up of RotoruA

Ngāti Whakaue


From the 1850’s the very first tourists began arriving in the region, many of them from the other side of the world. They came to see the wonders of the area such as the Pink and White Terraces of Rotomāhana.  


By the 1870’s the Government realised that a township should be set up to serve as a gateway to these wonderful attractions.

In 1880 Ngāti Whakaue entered into a contract with the Crown to set aside land.

The contract became known as the ‘Fenton Agreement’ after Native Land Court Judge Francis Dart Fenton, who liaised with the original owners on behalf of the Crown. The Thermal Springs District Act 1881 made the contract official.

It was agreed that Ngāti Whakaue would gift land to the Crown for recreation, sanatoriums, railways, hospitals and other amenities. The Crown would control the thermal waters. Māori would still own their land and receive never-ending income through 99-year leases.

The total area of land included in the new township was around 12 square kilometres. It ran from the ‘west end of Te Pukeroa to Puarenga Stream and from Lake Rotorua up to the mountains, excluding the native village of Ōhinemutu’.

A time of depression and hardship came to the area after the disastrous Tarawera eruption in 1886. The tourism business the Rotorua economy relied on disappeared. Many leaseholders could not make their payments, and many Māori whānau became very poor as a result.

The plan created by the Fenton Agreement had failed and put Māori whānau at risk.

In the early 1890’s the Crown forced the owners to sell them the leasehold land. By this action/By doing this, the Crown ignored its responsibilities under the Fenton Agreement.

It was not until 1993 that the people of Ngāti Whakaue reached an agreement with the Crown to settle their broken contract. As part of the Settlement Agreement, the Crown agreed to return the gifted lands that were no longer required for their original use.

TThe Crown gave back the ownership of the railway reserves to Pukeroa Ōruawhata Trust, which was created to act on behalf of Ngāti Whakaue. The first of these was the former railway station and marshalling yards where Rotorua Central Mall is now located. Trade Central is also established on former railway reserve.

Some areas were not included in the 1993 settlement. These include Kuirau Park, the Rotorua Public Cemetery and Government Gardens.

Qualities: innovation, identity, relationships

Here’s a tip:

Rotorua Library has a specially designed digital display touch screen table with information about the Fenton Agreement available for anyone to visit and use on Papa Tahi (Level One) of Rotorua Library Te Aka Mauri.

More to read:


About Francis Dart Fenton:


From Rotorua Library:

The Fenton Agreement and land alienations in the Rotorua District in the nineteeth century (Kathryn Rose)


This entry is related to these other entries:

Railways and Rotorua; The Street Names of Rotorua



Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa

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