About the District

District History

Otorohanga District is part of the King Country region (known by Maori as 'Te Rohe Potae' - "The Area of the Hat") that extends along the west coast of New Zealand's North Island from Mount Pirongia in the north to the coastal town of Mokau in the south. It stretches inland to Pureora Forest Park and the Waikato River.

After the Maori Land Wars of the early 1860s the Maori Chief Tawhiao and his followers sought refuge in the rugged countryside of the King Country, and from 1864 to 1883 the area was closed to Europeans except by express permission of Maori.

Originally covered by dense native bush and swamps, development of the King Country area commenced in the late 19th century. An initial predecessor to the current Council, the Otorohanga County, was formed in 1922 and this was amalgamated with the northern half of the adjacent Kawhia County in 1956. On 1 November 1971, the Otorohanga County and the urban Borough of Otorohanga were united to form a new County of Otorohanga, which was renamed the Otorohanga District Council in 1979.


The District Today

The Otorohanga District is located some 50 kilometres south of Hamilton. The area administered by the Council covers 1976 square kilometres and extends from the Kawhia and Aotea Harbours on the west coast for a distance of 90 km to the eastern extremity on the Waikato River near Mangakino. Included within the District are the urban communities of Otorohanga and Kawhia.

Geographically, the District comprises three distinct areas of approximately equal size. The eastern and western areas have predominantly more hills than the central area, which is the southern limit of the Waikato Basin. The local economy is primarily based upon agriculture, with sheep, beef and dairy farming being the principle agricultural activities.

Otorohanga is centrally placed, being within easy driving distance of Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo and New Plymouth. The town has a population of approximately 3000 and is a service centre for the surrounding rural areas and is the closest town to the world famous glow worm caves at Waitomo, which generate significant tourist traffic. Otorohanga has good shopping facilities, three modern primary schools and a college, medical facilities and caters for a wide range of sporting and cultural activities.

Kawhia is a small holiday resort located on the shores of the Kawhia Harbour, some 57 kilometres west of Otorohanga via State Highway 31, and has a permanent population of approximately 400, but the population increases to over 2000 at peak holiday periods. Kawhia is the spiritual home of the Tainui people who first settled there 600 to 700 years ago. The Kawhia Harbour covers more than 6000 hectares, with five rivers feeding into it. It is a popular and productive fishing spot.