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Written By: - Date published: 3:10 pm, November 21st, 2012 - 47 comments
Categories: Conservation, Environment, Maori Issues - Tags:

We humans tend to feel we have conquered nature, but, every now and then, we are reminded that we are dependent on it.  And we need to view it with respect.

Tongariro has had a relatively minor eruption today. There is some concern for residents, and a school party that was on the mountain, but so far, everything seems under control and everyone is safe.  The state of the mountain is being monitored.

Up to 70 Napier School children were reported to be two hours into a tramp on the Tongariro track.

Two bus drivers from Nimon and Sons, who took the children up to the mountain, had reported back to their base that they could see a plume 2km high, a spokesman said.

Conservation Department area manager Jonathan Maxwell said 30 to 50 people were being evacuated from the Tongariro Crossing track.  No injuries had been reported. State highways in the area had been closed.

Lake Rotoaira resident Robyn Bennett said there was a big, black ash cloud over her house, which was about a kilometre from the eruption site.

“It’s just blew her stack,” she said.

She said the air smelled of sulphur.

“It’s hard to breathe if you go outside, it’s pushing out quite heavily.” Bennett said she didn’t hear the eruption but it looked like a new vent had formed in front of a previous eruption crater. The ash cloud was moving east towards Napier and Taupo.

Ruapehu has shown signs of activity recently, but has not shown signs of erupting.  It’s not certain if volcanic activities on the 2 mountains are connected.  I do find volcanoes to be quite awesome – may be to do with growing up in Auckland.  I don’t know a lot about the science.  But, I’m intrigued that, it was once totally discounted that there was a link between earthquakes and volcanic activity.  Now it seems to be something that is being considered.

Maori have continued to have more respect for the awesome power of nature.  It’s to be seen in their traditional stories.  Tongariro is the belly of Maui’s fish. This and the surrounding areas were gifted to the people of Aotearoa in 1887:

In 1887 Te Heuheu Tukino IV (Horonuku), then the paramount chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa, gifted the sacred peaks of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and part of Ruapehu, to the people of New Zealand. This prevented the land being divided up and preserved the mana (prestige…) of the Tuwharetoa people.

Until August of this year, it had been dormant for 115 years.


47 comments on “Eruption”

  1. Populuxe1 1

    “Maori have continued to have more respect for the awesome power of nature.”

    For one thing I don’t think anyone regardless of race has any less respect for an erupting volcano, and for another that “respect” prevents the government from intervening in the Ruapehu crater lake to prevent catastrophic lahars. Personally I think public safety should take priority over superstition, but then I don’t believe in the supernatural.

    • Dr Terry 1.1

      Nor do I believe in superstition – I expect very few people do. But I hope this is not a put-down for the truths implicit within Maori mythology.

  2. vto 2

    “Maori have continued to have more respect for the awesome power of nature”

    Why on earth with volcanoes would you think that Karol?

    • karol 2.1

      Because, vto, Tongariro has stories associated with it, that speak of volcanoes as living beings.  And because the mana of the Tangata Whenua is associated with specific pieces of land, such as that of Tongariro.  Because Iwi have specific rituals related to the land.

      An eruption like this reminds of of all that.  When I think of Tongariro, I think of all the history and cultural associations that go with it.

      • vto 2.1.1

        Well you clearly imply that those things don’t exist in similar or other form in other societies, which reflects a shallow understanding on your part. You do realise that volcanoes exist elsewhere on the planet and amongst societies a great deal older than ours here, don’t you?

        I get very very tired of this sort of carry on.

        • karol

          Of course I realise other societies have have much older volcanoes and strong cultural links to them.  But I my focus in the post was on Aotearoa/NZ.

          I have written a few posts for TS, and this is the first when I have paid much attention to Maori culture and history – I don’t know how you can be tired of the topic already, vto? 

          • vto

            I get tired of the inferred superiority of one culture’s values and ways over other cultures’ values and ways. I thought as a country we had moved well past that.

            “Maori have continued to have more respect for the awesome power of nature … than, obviously, non-maori. This is simply bullshit. I think you have confused a couple of things and expressed yourself a little clumsily.

            That’s all. Carry on.

      • Santi 2.1.2

        Mumbo jumbo. An eruption is a volcano eruption. Period.

    • Uturn 2.2

      Couple of weeks ago there was an episode of Topgear, where one of those twits drives a Toyota 4×4 up to an erupting volcano to collect some of the lava and red hot rocks raining down on him. Over the cab there was a piece of corrogated iron sheet for “added safety”. The tool he used to grab a bit of rock was a gardener’s trowel taped to a length of bamboo. He made a hasty retreat once his tyres caught on fire.

      I think it must be in the definition of “respect” that all the puffing begins. In the activites that require “respect” that I’ve participated in – definition being that natural forces can kill you if you don’t think ahead – there is definitely a spirit of “what the hell, it’s a good laugh” in my fellow whities. Some of this is pure bravado, some of it is lack of experience and most of it is a false sense of security that someone will come get them when it goes wrong – or even that someone can come get them before they die of gas inhalation, hypothermia or some other time sensitive factor.

      When you don’t have a lot of technology to back you up, if your culture is to embrace technology to cover gaps in your skill, then it could be argued that other cultures have more “respect” for natural forces. You cannot mount a legal defense or plea your social status against the wind, the sea or volcanoes once you find out you just made a stupid mistake that is going to kill you in about an hour and there is nothing you can do but wait to go through the stages of your death.

      • millsy 2.2.1

        Was Clarkson the one who did that. He is the one person who puts me off that show. Hammond and May are actually pretty OK.

      • vto 2.2.2

        True that Uturn.

        “You cannot mount a legal defense or plea your social status against the wind, the sea or volcanoes once you find out you just made a stupid mistake that is going to kill you in about an hour and there is nothing you can do but wait to go through the stages of your death.”

        Had exactly that recently, though was an accident not a stupid mistake. Was solo and began moving through those stages of death. Scary stuff and keeps one sober (respect) for some long time after.

        You’re right though that we tend to have an over reliance on rechnology to save us (it saved me) and that tech similarly opens up that bravado as we seem to think we have ‘conquered’ risk and death.

      • Rogue Trooper 2.2.3

        like competitive sport; ACC
        and all these people experiencing employment injuries / fatalities as the employment conditions test gravity

  3. fisiani 3

    Tongariro is not happy with Shearer demoting Cunliffe.

    • higherstandard 3.1

      I disagree it must be Cunliffe’s fault.

    • karol 3.2

      If Tongariro and gods of nature are unhappy with anyone, it’ll be the people who fail to ensure we care for our environment adequately, and who fail to ensure sustainable practices for the future.

      • higherstandard 3.2.1

        Yes, because there were never any volcanic eruptions pre-humans let alone before the industrial age.

        • TheContrarian

          Funnily enough the greatest cataclysms that have ever befallen the Earth were before modern humans

          • McFlock

            Funnily enough the greatest cataclysms that have ever befallen the Earth were before modern humans

            well duh:
            4000000000 years of geohistory; vs
            200000 years of homo sapiens; and
            6000 years of technological development (give or take).
            But we’ve packed a lot into that time.
            And at least we’re in a position to recognise, e.g., massive cataclysms that massively deplete or completely extinguish apex predators provide evolutionary opportunities for other species. 

        • karol

          Of course, hs.  I was just responding somewhat facetiously, in the tone set by the previous 2 comments, but adding a little environmentalist perspective.

          For those that don’t understand where  I’m coming from: I am interested in the way people’s stories and metaphors expose their underlying cultural values. For instance, an academic text that made a strong impact on me, way back, was Marshall Berman’s All That Is Solid Melts into the Air.  Part of the book analyses the metaphors used by Marx.  I found it intriguing.

          There’s a summary of the book here. The book focuses a lot on how people have attempted to adjust to industrial society – something that has managed to disconnect us from a strong connection with nature.  We live in a social world, where meanings can constantly shift, making understanding each other difficult:

          If we think of modernism as a struggle to make ourselves at home in a constantly changing world, we will realize that no mode of modernism can ever be definitive.

          In such a context, communication and dialogue become both a desperate need and a primary source of delight. In a world where meanings melt into air, these experiences are among the few solid sources of meaning we can count on. One of the things that can make modern life worth living is the enhanced opportunities it offers us–and sometimes even forces on us–to talk together, to reach and understand each other.


          • vto

            aha Karol, now what you say here begins to make more sense..

            • karol

              Thank-you, vto.  One of my main areas of study has been on political and social discourses in popular culture.  Sorry, if I lept into unknown or inexplicable territory for some.  

              I was also feeling a need to shift focus from the disturbing happenings in and after the Labour conference.  I was feeling a bit like I’d experienced an over-dose of tortuous debate.

              • vto

                Agreed, the whole Labour shemozzle thing is draining and distracting from other goings-on.

                Regarding the disconnect from nature it is true that that has occured in many quarters. We don’t see the stars at night as often, we don’t get our feet on grass often enough, nor feel the edges of wind and rain on our skin.

                However, that is only a relatively recent phenomenon and a reach back to that connect is not that far, perhaps a generation or two or more. I guess it is a matter of degree though given the industrial revolution began longer ago than that. It is also of course a phenomonen that touches only certain sectors of humankind. The bulk of humanity, I think, is still rural today and would have that greater connection to nature.

                As for that respect for the awesome power of nature – by way of example, a significant part of my own heritage was soaked in maritime endeavours and they, as a family, achieved things greater than the polynesian sailors and many other cultures naval and exploratory missions (big call of course but people, including me, are gobsmacked when it is outlined). The respect for the sea goes without saying lest death steps quickly to the bulwark. And that heritage is only one short step back in time. So the respect for nature I think does exist in NZ and it does cut across most all sectors of the population.

                So your point has validity and some limitation, but the power of nature expressed today in Tuwharetoa land reminds us all that we live on a volatile set of islands which can turf us off with the flick of a tail. As we here in Canterbury can attest to as well.

                Just a little further – was in a high faluting meeting today with suits and ties and the opening conversation was around exactly this issue. Man and nature and the exhileration of returning to that connection is just below the skin for most of us in these raw and wild islands.

                Good subject.

      • There are no ‘gods of nature’

        • Pascal's bookie

          What a ridiculous statement.



        • felix

          I prefer to believe in “Dogs of nature” for several reasons.

          1. I can see them so I know they exist. No faith required.

          2. They’re on demand. When I want to communicate with them there’s no time-consuming rituals or prayers, and no waiting around for them to reveal themselves at their leisure. I just whistle. Or rattle a food bowl.

          3. Their advice is remarkably consistent (usually food/walk/swim oriented), easily implemented and always works as advertised.

          4. If someone annoys me they bite them.

  4. Steve Wrathall 4

    Why didn’t is apply for a resource consent?

    • karol 4.1

      Why didn’t is apply for a resource consent?

      Tongariro doesn’t need any RMA – answers to a higher authority. 

      • Rogue Trooper 4.1.1

        hard case link karol; do I may an interesting subject. (traditionally modern myself; still the same people essentially these past tens of millennia) just culture

  5. MrSmith 5

    “We humans tend to feel we have conquered nature, but, every now and then”

    Love it Karol, but it’s not every now and then, it’s every day for some.

    I like to refer to them as the Grass Cutter Nutters, the country is full of then, they can be heard daily pushing their movers or swinging the weed eaters, I see them as a bunch of domineering control freaks that can never be satisfied. As close as they will ever get to their Nirvana is the smell of freshly cut grass, when maybe if they tried smoking it or just stepped back for a minute, they might just realize they’ve been wasting their life and money fighting it.

    The day they die these suckers will be dug back into that very ground and the sooner the better.

    • vto 5.1

      Thats harsh and presumptious mr smith. I take it you don’t live in the burbs with a double internal access garage and vertical blinds on the windows from which you keep an eye on every movement in the street, thereby keeping the street empty and soulless.

      You shouldn’t wish people dead. That’s bad.

    • Jimmie 5.2

      I guess Mr Smith that you don’t spend too many Saturday mornings mowing your lawns and pulling a few weeds? (Can you see your boundary fence?)

      I’m also assuming that you don’t eat any food products that have been grown in artificial conditions by the same nutters who fight nature with their farming/horticultural systems.

      I presume therefore that you only eat food that has been harvested by yourself from wild and naturally grown sources – no artificial intervention.

      I am thus concluding that by no means are you overweight and that most of your ribs are sticking out?

      Please tell me that I am correct?

      Also I suppose if you become PM of NZ you will move to outlaw all lawn mowers, garden trowels, and other evil tools?

      • felix 5.2.1

        Wow. You realise that apart from the first one, that’s all happening in your head, don’t you?

        Fucking scary mate. You probably should have all your sharp tools taken away.

        • Jimmie

          Nothing wrong with a little mocking hyperbole to make a point.

          And definitely no where as odd as Mr Smith wishing that people who mow lawns should drop dead – now he should be the one having his tools taken away from him.

          • karol

            I think Mr Smith was indulging in a little hyperbole.  It is a curious thing that it is considered the height of civilisation to always have neatly tamed lawns.  It does has its place, but it is a thing that only developed in recent centuries.

            But I also appreciate untamed nature – and those lawn mowers can be irritating sometimes. 

          • felix

            “to make a point”

            Yeah let me know when you get around to that, won’t you.

  6. weka 6

    If you think of the earth as your mother you have a different relationship with it than if you think the earth is something under your dominion, or a repository or useful resources.
    The differences within cultures are so blindingly obvious, and reflected in those cultures’ mythologies, I’m surprised Karol has to explain herself. People getting hung up on the (non)existence of god are missing the point.

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