This chapter introduces the historical and geographical background for the scientific studies at Tarawera and Lake Rotomahana in the Taupo Volcanic Zone of New Zealand as detailed in this Special Issue of the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. It also presents the results of some original investigations. These are based partly on the large body of historical information that exists about the 1886 Tarawera eruption and the geothermal system at Rotomahana, and partly on the results of dedicated geological studies by other researchers within the Okataina Volcanic Centre where the historical events took place. Specifically, the new material here presented includes a detailed analysis of a previously almost neglected narrative by the only observer to witness the 1886 eruption from the southeast of the erupting craters and leave an account of his observations. The importance of a co-operative interplay between pre-existing tectonic deformation and its responses to strong seismic activity induced by magmatic intrusion is emphasised as being a major determinant in the course of the eruption, and as the main trigger of the eruption explosions that were audible throughout half of the land area of New Zealand. The chapter then concentrates on showing how the recent geological studies, in conjunction with ideas on the architecture of geysers, permit an explanation to be given as to how the unique Pink and White Terraces came to be formed.