In 1990 Hauturu East 8 (part of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves area) was vested into the Trust. The Crown retained a portion in the Caves known as Section 10. The Trust owns 3 acres and the Crown owns one acre (Section 10).

The Department of Conservation administers the Crown’s interest. Management of the Caves is shared on a 50-50 basis between the owners through the Caves Management Committee.

The return of the Caves was subject to a licence agreement for 32 years in favour of South Pacific Hotel Corporation. In 1997, the licence was assigned to Tourism Holdings Ltd (“THL”). In 2008 the licence was renogiated to a lease with more favourable terms for the owners. A five year extension to the lease was also granted.

The lease expires in 2027. The RUHT is currently undertaking a strategic planning process called “Envisioning 2027” to consider the following options;

  • Taking over the operational management of the Caves
  • Joint venture models
  • Releasing

Cave Revenue

The Cave revenue is the economic driver of the Trust’s activities. The royalty generates more than $2m in revenue per annum for the Trust.

Environmental Sustainability and Scientific Research

Kaitiakitanga is an important aspect of operating the Caves. In recent years, THL has embedded environmental sustainability across all of its business products. Scientific research has become an important part of THL’s environmental management at the Caves and we are seeing a number of positive results from these monitoring and data collection projects.

Stream and Catchment Programmes

Riparian planting and fencing projects to reduce sediment and stock effluent getting into the Waitomo River has been a strong focus of the Waitomo Catchment Trust and THL. THL are investing in riparian planting projects to ensure that the water quality of the streams flowing through their caving businesses remains high. This will ensure that the ecosystems within the caves remain healthy.

Scientific Projects and Research

The following projects have or are being undertaken at the Caves:

  • Glowworm Food Supply Study
  • Dissolution of Soluble Limestone Study
  • Cave Monitoring Network
  • Measuring climate variables of CO2, wind velocity, temperature, humidity, stream height
  • Ongoing photographic time lapse monitoring of the glowworms.

The Trust contributes to scientific research at the Caves and makes an annual contribution to the Waitomo Catchment Trust which plays an important role in maintaining the water quality of the upper catchment of the Waitomo Stream.

Employment at the Caves

An employment clause in the Caves lease assists registered beneficiaries to get jobs at the Caves. This clause ensures our people derive a direct economic benefit from the Caves.

Free of Charge Entry to the Caves

Please note FOC bookings at the Glowworm Caves are not available between December and January during peak season.

Free of charge (FOC) entry to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves is for the benefit of members (and their spouses) of the Ruapuha Uekaha Hapu Trust who whakapapa directly to one (or more) of the following tupuna:

  • Te Riutoto Aihe
  • Whatakaraka
  • Te Aroa Haereiti
  • Tanetinorau Opataia

Booking Process during Open Office Hours

Please ensure that you book at least three days in advance. Groups of more than 10 must book two weeks in advance. Group bookings of more than 20 must book one month in advance.

Please note only RUHT members (and their spouses) are free, non-hapu members will be required to pay. Large group bookings (10+) will require a list of names.

The caves are open every day. Please note Saturdays are not available for Free of Charge whanau bookings. If you wish to go through on a Saturday, you will be required to pay and pre bookings are essential.

Times for whanau going through are 9am-10am or 2.30pm-4.00pm (times may change subject to availability).

If you and the whanau would like to go through, please ensure that you pre book by contacting the RUHT office Monday-Friday (Closed Public Holidays, Working remotely Thursday & Friday), 9.00am-4.00pm.

When visiting the caves please be patient and respectful to the guides, otherwise you may be asked to leave.

Please share this information with whanau so they are aware of the booking process.

Weddings in the Caves

Registered beneficiaries can get married at the Caves; however the Caves is not available as a wedding venue during the high season (November to February). Enquiries can be made by contacting the RUHT Office – 0800 525 626. Terms and conditions apply for wedding bookings.

Photo – Huia Davis guiding visitors through the Glowworm Cave Grotto



Glowworm Caves

Vision &


Kia hora te marino.  Kia whakapapa pounamu te moana.  Kia tere te kārohirohi i mua i tō huarahi.

May peace be widespread. May the sea glisten like greenstone.  And may the shimmer of light guide your way.