In the 1800s, the tangata whenua of the area around Lake Taupo were in the main hapu of Ngati Tuwharetoa. Tuwharetoa lands stretched from Ngakuru, south of Rotorua, to Mount Ruapehu and included Lake Taupo. The sons of TBaker, William George, 1864-1929. Baker, William George 1864-1929 :L Taupo [ca 1900?]. Ref: G-616. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.uwharetoa and their whanau had settled in the area somewhere in the 1500s, conquering and intermarrying with Ngati Hotu who had lived in the Taupo Lake area since the fourteenth century.

The first Europeans recorded to have reached the Taupo district were Andrew Powers in 1831 and Thomas Chapman, an Anglican missionary, in February 1839. They were later followed by other missionaries of various Christian denominations. Newspapers published a description of the perilous journey on foot to Taupo from Whanganui by one early missionary in the winter of 1846.

In 1862 George Grey appointed a civil commissioner and magistrate to the Taupo district. However, Pakeha presence remained limited until the arrival of the Armed Constabulary in 1869 despite some efforts to establish farming, particularly following Governor Grey's 1866 visit to Taupo. These early farming attempts were disrupted by Te Kooti, a Maori freedom fighter, and a number of farming leases that had been established prior to his arrival were abandoned by Pakeha farmers.


Following the New Zealand Land Wars, an armed force was considered necessary as imperial troops were withdrawn from the country.

The Taupo Armed Constabulary fortification - called the Tapuaeharuru redoubt as that was the name of Taupo at the time - was one in a chain set up to  guard the frontier of the Urewera Country where Te Kooti had taken refuge and to protect the route from Taupo to the coast. Taupo was a point of strategic importance as it sat at the convergence of many Maori routes through the central NCarnell, Samuel, 1832-1920. New Zealand Armed Constabulary garrison at Opepe. Ref: 1/2-003116-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. orth Island.

When the Armed Constabulary first arrived in Tapuaeharuru they settled on the west bank of the Waikato at the local Maori settlement of Nukuhau. However that was short-lived, said to be the result of an unpleasant incident, one in which a drunken constable nearly set fire to the settlement. This led to the Constabulary setting up camp on the east side of the river. The Tapuaeharuru Redoubt was built on a high bank which is now the site of Tongariro Domain in central Taupo.

By May 1870, “a formidable Redoubt to hold 150 men in tents has been put up on the right bank of the Waikato, where it flows out of Lake Taupo” (Report by J M Roberts, AJHR 1870, D7). A private Armed Constabulary road stretched across the domain from Tongariro Road to the riverbank. In 1871 there were approximately 260 Armed Constabulary men in the Taupo District. In 1873 the Armed Constabulary bridged the Waikato.

The Constabulary men and local Maori worked together to develop the Napier-Taupo bridle track into a road. The first Napier-Taupo horse drawn coach service began in 1874. The journey was trecherous and took two days. 



In 1871 a courthouse was built, followed in 1881 by another, which also doubled as a hall. This was the last building in the township erected by the Armed Constabulary.

It was a hearing in this courthouse that led to a historical event. In January 1886, at a hearing of the Native Land Court before Judge David Scannell, the Court gave its judgement that Horonuku Te Heuheu had ownership of the volcanic peaks of Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. In 1887 Te Heuheu then gifted the land to the government, enabling the establishment of New Zealand’s first national park – the world's fourth.

In 1962 a new court building replaced the old which was shifted to a site adjoining the redoubt earthworks and placed under the control of the Historic Places Trust. It is nationally significant as the only remaining building in New Zealand associated with the Armed Constabulary.

The civil police force took over where the armed constabulary left off, operating out of some of its old buildings when the force was disbanded after 1876. The first purpose-built police station wasn't erected until 1962.

The first operational library in Taupo was also part of the Armed Constabulary complex but later operated out of the road board offices.

Various other buildings were also erected after 1870, including a post office and schoolroom.

COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENTPhotograph of Robert William Prinn's chemist shop, Tamamutu Street, Taupo. Ref: 1/2-151348-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand

Commercial development in Taupo dated from the 1870s. By 1872, the Taupo Hotel had been built, along with a small store. In 1878, the Lake Hotel was finished. In 1883 J Rickit and Robert Adams set up a general store. J Crowther appears as a butcher.

Road links improved too, in

Sections reserved from sale within the township include municipal reserves, justice, postal and telegraph reserve, the first cemetery site, school site, the site of a mechanic’s institute (which was never used for this purpose) and library.

In 1887 R W Prinn was appointed native dispenser by the government, but by 1889 he began to stock pharmaceuticals for sale to the general public.

Other commercial development soon followed, with advances in technology and transport making services like garages and cinemas available over time.

FISHINGHead, Samuel Heath, d 1948 :Negatives. Ref: 1/1-007295-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Lake Taupo’s location in the centre of the North Island in one way hindered development due to isolation, but in terms of acclimatization efforts to introduce exotic fish species into the lake, that same central location was in Taupo’s favour. Trout were released in 1885, 1892, and 1894.

It is said that Samuel Crowther, while operating the coaches in the area, released trout eggs into every stream he passed, so that from 1895 brown and rainbow trout had been introduced to the region.

 They were introduced solely to provide a hobby and trout fishing became a major pastime and tourist attraction. Earlier attempts to attract tourists had focused on thermal attractions of the region, so fishing provided another draw.

Fishing was initially restricted to the Waikato River and river mouths around the lake.

The government set up a trout hatchery under agreement with Ngati Tuwharetoa in 1926 to to make use of Lake Taupo's supply to support acclimatisation societies by providing hatchery raised ova and fry for release.



Local History

Sources:Central Taupo Heritage Assessment (2009), Matthews & Matthews Architects Ltd, with Kate Schoonees and Lisa Truttman.