The notes of a 19th Century geologist have helped scientists to pinpoint the location of the iconic Pink and White Terraces.
The long-lost "eighth wonder of the world" is buried under Lake Rotomahana near Rotorua.
Two NIWA scientists announced the discovery today, after evaluating the diary and maps of Ferdinand von Hochstetter and reconstructing his survey sites and stations.
Von Hochstetter conducted the only known formal survey of Lake Rotomahana before the 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera, which devastated the surrounding countryside and buried several villages.
It was the largest and most destructive volcanic eruption since the arrival of Europeans in the early 19th Century. Until the eruption, the terraces were a thriving tourist destination, attracting people from around the country and overseas.
They formed over thousands of years, as silica-rich water emerging from springs and boiling geysers crystallised into giant tiered staircases.
The NIWA research was undertaken at the request of the Tūhourangi Tribal Authority after conflicting findings about the former location of the terraces.
In their quest to locate the terraces, Andrew Lorrey and John-Mark Woolley used light detection and ranging - a remote sensing system that uses light pulses to measure distance and topography.
Dr Lorrey said the project showed the accuracy and utility of historic documents for scientific research.
"The published map is faithful to the diary measurements, and the results we obtained align to previous research on where the terraces might be," he said.
But it is not yet known if the terraces are still intact.
"There is a lot more science that is yet to be done to see what's down there," he said.