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An ancient passenger


Puketapu was a passenger on the Araiteuru waka (canoe) that sank o􀃣ff the coastline near Matakaea (Shag Point). After capsizing, many of the passengers went ashore to explore the land, however they needed to be back at the waka before being overtaken by daylight. Puketapu was on a mission to gather firewood and was herself overtaken by the daylight and transformed into stone. The remnant of firewood that she had managed to gather can still be seen growing on the southwest flanks of the hill. The area surrounding Puketapu was traditionally a kāika nohoaka (settlement) and kāika mahika kai (food-gathering place) where tuna (eels), inaka (whitebait) and manu (birds) were gathered.

Dunedin Volcanic Group


This ancient volcano is one of the numerous vents visible on the landscape in this area. These volcanoes are part of the extensive Dunedin Volcanic Group. Volcanoes within this group occur intermittently over an area of around 7,800 km - from near Ngapara (inland from Ōamaru) to Kaitangata (south of Dunedin), and inland to the Maniototo. Volcanoes in this group were active from around 9 – 25 million years ago as Te Riu-a-Māui/Zealandia, the continent New Zealand is part of, emerged from the sea. The sloping sedimentary flanks of Puketapu give way to a steeper gradient where hard volcanic rock is exposed towards the top of this cone.


Tuna (eel)

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Sir John McKenzie


The monument atop Puketapu is a memorial to Sir John McKenzie (1839-1901). He arrived in Dunedin in 1860 and settled in Palmerston. McKenzie's expertise on land matters won him the post of Minister of Lands from 1891 to 1900. During that time, he gained fame for his e􀃣fforts in breaking up the huge farming estates established in the early years of colonial New Zealand. McKenzie also introduced a Native Land policy, which was aimed at alienating large tracts of lands from Māori whānau, hapū, and iwi, the eff􀃣ects of which have rippled through to this day.

John McKenzie in circa 1900. Collection of the Waitaki Archive. Id 104487

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Fast facts


  • Puketapu was a passenger on the Araiteuru waka (canoe) that sank o􀃣ff the coastline near Matakaea (Shag Point).

  • Puketapu is part of one of Te Riu-a-Māui/ Zealandia's biggest and longest-lived intraplate volcanic fields.

  • John McKenzie was born in Scotland where he undertook a rural apprenticeship, beginning as a shepherd and later ran a farm.

Take a virtual tour on top of Puketapu:

Please be aware the following hazards include: stock, exposed at the top.

Latitude: -45:29:26.583
Longitude: 170:43:52.540

Moderate walking track 

Approx. 1 hour


To get to Puketapu, drive into the township of Palmerston. Admire this landscape from the town or take the short, but steep climb to the top (1 hour return). You will be rewarded with stunning views! The track is open all year except during lambing season (Sept – Nov). The track starts on Stour Street.


Protection and guardianship are at the heart of the Geopark philosophy. We ask you to treat this site with respect, do not remove anything from this site and preserve it for our future generations.

Scenic views  & Photo opportunities

Public Toilets nearby

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