Reginald and Violet Smith purchased the 12-acre freehold property in 1931. Reg, an accountant biked daily to his accountancy practice in Rotorua, while Vi renovated and reopened the Te Wairoa tearooms which had been closed for 20 years. With their sons Basil and Dudley, the family began excavating some of the 60 sites buried beneath rock, ash and mud.
By the 1950s, Dudley Smith was managing the Buried Village which incorporated the Tarawera Lakes District’s Post Office and General Store. Dudley and his wife Nora rebuilt the facilities in 1977 modelling it on the Terraces Hotel, which was once part of Te Wairoa village.
Today, the Buried Village is managed by Pam (Dudley’s daughter) and her husband, Pat McGrath. They have continued the tradition of developing this unique attraction, adding the world-class Museum of Te Wairoa, extending the walkways within the park, and maintaining the integrity of the archaeological sites.
For over 80 years, the Buried Village has preserved, showcased and interpreted the stories behind the village of Te Wairoa and the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886. It is now one of New Zealand ’s leading tourism attractions.