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How to give back when you’re visiting the Tongariro National Park: behind the manaakitanga of Backyard Tours

Onlookers described it as if an “old giant woke from a deep slumber.” On 6 August 2012, Mount Tongariro erupted for the first time in 100 years.

Longtime residents Gloria and Brendan sat front-row as the massive ash clouds tumbled down the mountain. This would be the catalyst for reconstructing safety, transportation, and tourism around the Tongariro National Park.

After the eruption, Gloria and Brendan saw an opportunity to fill a much-needed gap through Backyard Tours.

Now, they provide shuttles to and from the Tongariro National Park. They transport you to the Whakapapa Ski Fields in order to avoid dangerous driving conditions in the winter and to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to simplify your hike in the warmer months.

But they are not an ordinary transportation provider.

Backyard Tours has won several awards, including Trip Advisor, Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best and LTG Global Tour Company of the year, to name a few. This award-winning tour is "centred around manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga, care and guardianship, not just for visitors but also for the mountains at Tongariro National Park.”

Gloria and Brendan celebrate Backyard Tours’ eleventh anniversary, providing transformative shuttle services for travellers.

Catalyst for change

Gloria and Brendan’s daughter was young when they began their entrepreneurial venture. Wanting to leave a legacy for her, they created a local taxi service in Tūrangi.

“When the mountain blew up in 2012, we lived across the road and were affected the most by it” - Gloria. So, thanks to their desire to improve mountain safety, Gloria and Brendan created Backyard Tours.

“We heard stories of visitors not being aware or prepared. Those were triggers for us in our business to make sure we send those messages out there”


Through collaboration with local iwi and the Department of Conservation, Gloria and Brendan began transport for hikers, families, skiers and tourists travelling to and from the Tongariro National Park. With growing international attention to the region, they integrated safety protocols and Tikanga Māori values to shape a new transformative experience.

“There was no storytelling, and there weren’t many safety measures. It was all really new to the public. For us to share along the journey (to the Tongariro National Park), we’re going to explain to customers: 

  • Who we are

  • Where we’re going

  • Who are our maungas (mountains) 

  • What their history is

“Especially for international visitors, we want to communicate how meaningful this region is to us and for their safety, how to be prepared, how to be safe up on the mountain and most importantly, how to truly enjoy the experience.”

"It's about caring and sharing with respect.”

The land just below Mount Tongariro in Rotoaira is where their whānau (family) is from, where they grew up, where they got married and where their daughter was born. And as part of Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, Gloria and Brendan saw the mountains as sacred, holding many memories and stories.

In establishing Backyard Tours, their inspiration came from “living out there between the mountains. We were inspired by our surroundings, our environment and to promote the region while respecting it.”

Kaitiakitanga relates to the guardianship of the land and conservation connected by the past and future generations in Māori culture.

A deeply embedded value, it connects to “having respect and guardianship for our region, to our mountains and to the safety of our people.”


Gloria and Brendan share koreros (origin stories and history) about Mount Tongariro, Mount Ruapehu and Mount Ngāuruhoe. This includes an extraordinary and personal part of the Backyard Tours experience - acknowledging their ancestors with visitors like you.

“On the drive up the mountain, we explain a little part of our wairuatanga, our spiritual identity ... It's how we share more about our environment. Visitors relate to that because we’re all human, and we all relate to that.”

“To deliver good manaakitanga, it is our heritage.”

Manaakitanga translates from Te Reo Māori to extend aroha (love), generosity and compassion to another person and the land. A customary practice, it is expressed through the responsibility of hospitality and protection for both people and the whenua (land).

Gloria and Brendan inform each and every passenger of manaakitanga along with mountain safety protocols.

“It is what we’re brought up to do naturally as Tangata whenua (people of the land) is to care for another person. Whether in greetings or the first acknowledgment you want a person to feel at peace with you. It's everything about hospitality - how we deliver to people what Backyard Tours is about, what we do for our passengers and how we share stories of where we are.”


They’ve extended manaakitanga not just to their passengers but to the mountains. Gloria and Brendan advocate for Tongariro National Park’s conservation by updating trails with more safety messages and posts, road safety signs and parking restrictions.  

“It's all about bringing it back to what we love about our region – protecting our waterways, our mountain and whenua (land).” 

Start your hīkoi with Backyard Tours

“We felt it was important to address the people starting this special hīkoi, their journey, over our maunga. And to address those of our ancestors and our environment.” For Gloria and Brenden, Tikanga Māori makes a monumental difference for visitors.

Backyard Tours is a shuttle service to and from the Tongariro National Park, from one-way and return transport from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, trips to the ski fields in Ruapehu and Whakapapa and customizable trips.

On your journey, you are greeted with:

  • Free walking poles for free
  • Refreshments
  • Vivid storytelling and history from the region
  • A supportive safety system

“When people are done hiking, we get them to let us (Gloria and Brendan) know that they’re safely off the mountain. So, they have that support system as they make their hīkoi. They have us who care and are watching out for them.”

“For us, it's not just about making a living, it is that mannakitanga.”

As you're making your hīkoi to the Whakapapa Ski Fields this winter and spring or a walk in the Tongariro National Park, book your next trip with Backyard Tours.

“I believe we’re on the right track, Aotearoa. It is a part of that kaitiakitanga. We are all guardians, looking after the same environment we live in and cherish.”


It’s more than a shuttle service. It's a chance to learn the local stories and see a complete picture of the region with Backyard Tours.

A message from Tiaki: “New Zealand is precious, and everyone who lives and travels here has a responsibility to look after it. The Tiaki Promise is a commitment to care for New Zealand, for now and for future generations.”

Take this promise here and become a guardian to protect and preserve our home.


Book your next trip with Backyard Tours

  • Bus & coach transport

    Backyard Tours - Custom Transport Tours

    Nau mai Hāere mai - Welcome to our backyard. Visitor's journey is ensured whilst enjoying views and scenic historical sights in and around Turangi, Lake Taupō and the Tongariro National Park. Choice of activities or café styles can be added too.

    $90 - $110
  • Bus & coach transport

    Backyard Tours

    Backyard Tours transport services customers from Turangi or National Park Village 'Park n Ride' to Mt Ruapehu Whakapapa Ski fields and to hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing from Turangi or the Private Tongariro Shuttle Car Park on SH46.

    $50 - $100
  • Custom transfers

    Backyard Tours Private Tongariro Alpine Crossing Transfers - Rotoaira

    Backyard Tours Services customers with transport to and from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The best cheapest & safest only Parking lot & Ride one way shuttles & transfer that value is not compared. Book now.

    $60 - $80
  • Custom transfers

    Backyard Tours Turangi Whakapapa Winter Round Trip Transfer

    Let's go to the heart of the Tongariro National Park Whakapapa round trip transport transfer from Turangi to have fun in the snow. Book now.


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