Last updated

Hakiaha Street in 2009
Coordinates: 38°53.0′S175°15.7′E / 38.8833°S 175.2617°E / -38.8833; 175.2617
CountryNew Zealand
Region Manawatū-Whanganui
District Ruapehu District
  • Ruapehu General Ward
  • Ruapehu Māori Ward
CommunityTaumarunui-Ōhura Community
  Territorial Authority Ruapehu District Council
  Regional council Horizons Regional Council
  Total13.65 km2 (5.27 sq mi)
 (June 2023) [2]
Area code 07

Taumarunui is a small town in the King Country of the central North Island of New Zealand. It is on an alluvial plain set within rugged terrain on the upper reaches of the Whanganui River, 65 km south of Te Kūiti and 55 km west of Turangi. It is under the jurisdiction of Ruapehu District and Manawatū-Whanganui region.


Its population is 4,800 as of June 2023, [2] making it the largest centre for a considerable distance in any direction. It is on State Highway 4 and the North Island Main Trunk railway.

The name Taumarunui is reported to be the dying words of the Māori chief Pehi Turoa – taumaru meaning screen and nui big, literally translated as Big Screen, [3] being built to shelter him from the sun, or more commonly known to mean – "The place of big shelter". There are also references to Taumarunui being known as a large sheltered location for growing kūmara.

In the 1980s publication Roll Back the Years there are some details on how Taumarunui got its name. [4] Extract: "According to Frank T Brown, who wrote in the Taumarunui Press in 1926, the name Taumarunui is closely connected with the arrival of and conquering of that portion of the King Country by the Whanganui River natives during the 18th century . . . The war party that succeeded in capturing the principal pa and taking prisoner the chief of the district was headed by "Ki Maru". His warriors, to show their appreciation of his prowess and the honour of the victory, acclaimed him "Tau-maru-nui", which means "Maru the Great", or "Maru the Conqueror", that name was taken for the district and has been used ever since."

History and culture

Taitua at Taumarunui in 1885. Taitua Taumarunui 1885.jpg
Taitua at Taumarunui in 1885.

Taumarunui was originally a Māori settlement at the confluence of the Ongarue River with the Whanganui, important canoe routes linking the interior of the island with the lower Whanganui River settlements. Some places, notably the valley of the Pungapunga Stream, which joins the upper Whanganui near Manunui, were celebrated for the size and quality of totara, and large canoes were built there. The area is a border area between a number of iwi including Whanganui, Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Tūwharetoa, who lived together in relative harmony. [5]

Late in December 1843 Bishop Selwyn travelled from the district south of Taupō to a point on the Whanganui River about six miles downstream from Taumarunui and thence continued his journey to the coast by canoe. Towards the end of 1869 Te Kooti was at Taumarunui before his march through the western Taupō district to Tapapa. In the early 1880s the first surveys of the King Country commenced, and by the early 1890s the Crown had begun the purchase of large areas of land.

In 1874, Alexander Bell set up a trading post, and became the first European settler. The town has a road called Bell Road.

During the New Zealand Wars a resident named William Moffatt manufactured and supplied Māori with a coarse kind of gunpowder. He was afterwards expelled from the district. Despite warnings, he returned in 1880, ostensibly to prospect for gold, and was executed.

The Whanganui River long continued to be the principal route serving Taumarunui. Traffic was at first by Māori canoe, but by the late 1880s regular steamship communication was established. Taumarunui Landing (Image) was the last stop on Alexander Hatrick's steam boat service from Wanganui. The river vessels maintained the services between Wanganui and Taumarunui until the late 1920s, when the condition of the river deteriorated.

Later, Taumarunui gained importance with the completion of the North Island Main Trunk line in 1908–09 (celebrated in the 1957 ballad "Taumarunui on the Main Trunk Line" by Peter Cape, about the station refreshment room). The line south of Taumarunui caused considerable problems due to the terrain, and has several high viaducts and the famous Raurimu Spiral. The Stratford–Okahukura Line to Stratford connected just north of Taumarunui. In more recent times, the town's economy has been based on forestry and farming. It has gained in importance as a tourism centre, especially as an entry point for voyagers down the scenic Wanganui River and as the possessor of a high-quality golf course.




A view of Taumarunui, circa 1910s View of Taumarunui (21561204796).jpg
A view of Taumarunui, circa 1910s
  • 1900 – town-to-be reportedly held only 13 European males. [16] Another report said 40 or 50 members of Ngāti Hau and Mr Bell. [17]
  • 1901 – Railways line joining Te Kūiti to Taumarunui opened.
  • 1903 – Railway line passes through Taumarunui, and Taumarunui Railway Station opened on 1 December 1903 and Matapuna on 22 June 1903.
  • 1904 – First European child is born in township.
  • 1904 – £10,000 houseboat built then floated to Ōhura river junction. In 1927 this is transferred down river to Retaruke River junction where it was destroyed by fire in 1933.
  • 1906 – Native town council set up: Hakiaha Tawhiao, J.E. Ward (interpreter), J. Carrington. E.W. Simmons, A.J. Langmuir (chairman), J.E. Slattery.
  • 1906, 14 Sep – First issue of the Taumarunui Press.
  • 1907 – First hospital erected, 5 beds.
  • 1908–09 – North Island Main Trunk opened to through Auckland-Wellington trains from 9 November 1908, with the first NIMT express trains from 14 February 1909.
  • 1908–11 William Thomas Jennings elected Member of Parliament for Taumarunui electorate
  • 1910 – Borough of Taumarunui proclaimed.
  • 1910 – Kaitieke Co-op Dairy Co. formed. [18] [19]
  • 1910 – George Henry Thompson defeated Rev John E. Ward (166 to 143 votes) to become the first borough council mayor.
  • 1912 – Population: Males: 641; Females: 487 – Note: 1912 census did not include a count of Māori.
  • 1912 – Township started getting water supply from Waitea Creek, just south of Piriaka. Project cost £13,000. Pipeline 8 miles long.
  • 1913 – William Henry Wackrow – Mayor [20]
  • 1913, 22 Jul – First reported cases of Smallpox in district. [21]
  • 1911–14 Charles Wilson elected Member of Parliament
  • 1914 – Taumarunui gas supply begins
A landing on the Whanganui River at Taumarunui in motorised boats A landing on the Whanganui River at Taumarunui (21488619822).jpg
A landing on the Whanganui River at Taumarunui in motorised boats

1914–18 – World War I

  • 1914–19 – William Thomas Jennings re-elected Member of Parliament
  • 1915 – Taumarunui Hospital Board formed, 30 beds.
  • 1915 – Only a single car in town. [22]
  • 1915–1917 – Mayor: G.S. Steadman. [23]
  • 1916 – Census: 3,021 (Taumarunui & Manunui) [24]
  • 1917 – Tuku Te Ihu Te Ngarupiki, Chief of Rangatahi, dies in Matapuna near Taumarunui aged 97.
  • 1917–1919 – Mayor: A.S. Laird. [25]
  • 1919–1923 – Mayor: G.S. Steadman. [26]
  • 1923–1925 – Mayor: C.C. Marsack. [27]
  • 1924 – The Piriaka Power Station was built to supply electricity to Taumarunui. [28]
  • 1925–1929 – Mayor: G.E. Manson. [29]
  • 1928 – Four thousand bales of wool shipped down river
  • 1929–1944 – Mayor: Cecil Boles. [30]
  • 1932 – Stratford–Okahukura Line completed.
  • 1939 – Hatricks's steamer ceased running, final section of the journey having been done by coach from Kirikau landing since 1927.
Junction of the Whanganui and Ongarue River Junction of the Whanganui and Ongarue Rivers at Taumarunui (21651989012).jpg
Junction of the Whanganui and Ongarue River

1939–1945 – World War II

  • 1941 – Cosmopolitan Club established with Father Conboy as first president.
  • 1944–1947 – Mayor: W.S.N. Campbell. [31]
  • 1947–1953 – Mayor: D.H. Hall. [32]
  • 1951 – Census: 3,220
  • 1952 – Kaitieke County and Ohura County amalgamated with Taumarunui County.
  • 1953–1956 – Mayor: David C. Seath – later Member of Parliament for the King Country
  • 1956 – Mayor: Frank D. House – later Taumarunui High School governor.
  • 1956 – Census: 3,341
  • 1961 – Census: 4,961
  • 1962 – The King Country Electric Power Board commissioned its Kuratau Power Station. [33]
  • 1966 – 1 October, 6:00pm – King Country Radio 1520AM with the call sign 1ZU first broadcasts from Taumarunui.
  • 1968 – N.Z. Sportsmen's dinner – attended by Fred Allen, Peter Snell, Waka Nathan, Colin Meads, Bob Skelton, Taini Jamieson, Tilley Vercoe, Ivan Grattan, Bill Wordley, Don Croot, Trevor Ormsby, Hine Peni and Sonny Bolstad. [34]
  • 1971 – Additional generator to the Piriaka Power Scheme [35]
  • 1976, 4 Oct – Daniel Houpapa shot by Armed Offenders Squad after he fires at an officer [36]
  • 1981 – Census: 6,540, Full-time in labour force: 2,727 [37]
  • 1986 – Census: 6,468, Full-time in labour force: 2,514
  • 1988 – Taumarunui District Council formed.

Town Mayors immediately prior to 1988 include: Charles Binzegger, Les Byars and Terry Podmore. [38]

  • 1989, 1 Nov – Taumarunui District Council merged into Ruapehu District Council. [39]
  • 1991 – Census: 6,141, Full-time in labour force: 1,935
  • 1996 – Census: 5,835, Full-time in labour force: 1,438
  • 1997/98 – AFFCO Holdings freezing works closes.



There are a number of marae in the Taumarunui area, affiliated with local iwi and hapū, including:

In October 2020, the Government committed $1,560,379 from the Provincial Growth Fund to upgrade Takaputiraha Marae, Whānau Maria Marae, Wharauroa Marae and 5 other nearby marae, creating 156 jobs. [50]

Railway station clock NZL-taumarunui-uhr.jpg
Railway station clock


Township and borough

On State Highway 4 south of Taumarunui are the villages of Manunui, Piriaka, Kakahi, Ōwhango, Raurimu and then National Park. To the north are the school and truck stop of Māpiu.

Taumarunui County

Taumarunui County was defined in the Waikato and King-country Counties Act 1922, [51] this statute states:

ALL that area of land in the Auckland and Wellington Land Districts bounded towards the north generally by the Waitomo and Taupō Counties (as described in the Third and Ninth Schedules to this Act respectively); on the east generally by Lake Taupō and Taupō County; on the south generally by the middle of the Wanganui River; on the west generally by the Ongarue River to the Waitomo County. the place of commencement: excluding the Borough of Taumarunui.

Then subsequently in 1952 the Kaitieke County and the Ohura County were amalgamated with a new Taumarunui County.

Then in 1988, the Taumarunui District Council was formed, only to be replaced in 1989 as it was merged into the now Ruapehu District Council.


Taumarunui covers 13.65 km2 (5.27 sq mi) [1] and had an estimated population of 4,800 as of June 2023, [52] with a population density of 352 people per km2.

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [53]

Taumarunui had a population of 4,707 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 258 people (5.8%) since the 2013 census, and a decrease of 288 people (−5.8%) since the 2006 census. There were 1,812 households, comprising 2,307 males and 2,403 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.96 males per female, with 1,035 people (22.0%) aged under 15 years, 804 (17.1%) aged 15 to 29, 1,914 (40.7%) aged 30 to 64, and 966 (20.5%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 60.5% European/Pākehā, 52.1% Māori, 3.3% Pacific peoples, 3.5% Asian, and 1.4% other ethnicities. People may identify with more than one ethnicity.

The percentage of people born overseas was 9.9, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people chose not to answer the census's question about religious affiliation, 47.9% had no religion, 36.1% were Christian, 5.0% had Māori religious beliefs, 0.8% were Hindu, 0.2% were Muslim, 0.6% were Buddhist and 1.5% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 315 (8.6%) people had a bachelor's or higher degree, and 1,119 (30.5%) people had no formal qualifications. 210 people (5.7%) earned over $70,000 compared to 17.2% nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 1,362 (37.1%) people were employed full-time, 489 (13.3%) were part-time, and 270 (7.4%) were unemployed. [53]

Individual statistical areas
(per km2)
HouseholdsMedian ageMedian
Taumarunui North3.591,67746763341.6 years$22,500 [54]
Taumarunui Central5.541,48526862446.3 years$22,100 [55]
Taumarunui East4.521,54534255536.5 years$19,300 [56]
New Zealand37.4 years$31,800

Community institutions

Ngāpuwaiwaha marae is on Taumarunui Street; its main hapū are Ngāti Hāua and Ngāti Hauaroa of the iwi Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi. [57]

Taumarunui has many societies and community organizations. It has a Cosmopolitan Club and RSA, a Lodge of the Freemasons as well as Taumarunui Lodge NZ No. 12 of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes Grand Council. This Lodge of the Buffaloes was established sometime in the mid-late 1920s and thus predates the introduction of the Mighty NZR KA class steam locomotives that became the hallmark of NIMT Rail Transport of the forties, fifties and sixties.


Under the Köppen, Taumarunui has an Oceanic climate:(Cfb). Due to location, low altitude and Geography surroundings, Taumarunui is more liable to warm to hot summers than other central North Island centres and in winter, Taumarunui is cold and frosty. Rainfall yearly is 1,449 mm (57.047244 in). Annual sunshine yearly is 1822 hrs. In June 2002, Taumarunui recorded just 27 hrs of sun, this is the lowest in the whole country, beating the old record at Invercargill with 35 hrs in June 1935. [58] The lowest temperature recorded in Taumarunui, −6.8 °C, was in July 2010. [59]

Climate data for Taumarunui, New Zealand
Average high °C (°F)24.8
Daily mean °C (°F)18.4
Average low °C (°F)12.0
Average precipitation mm (inches)107.1
Mean monthly sunshine hours 220.4194.5167.2129.7100.871.594.9120.4140.1168.6192.3210.21,822.6
Source: climate-charts.com [60]


Taumarunui High School is a co-educational state secondary school for Year 9 to 13 students, [61] with a roll of 336 as of April 2023. [62]

The town has three primary schools for Year 1 to 8 students: Taumarunui Primary School, [63] with a roll of 153, [64] Tarrangower School, [65] [66] with a roll of 37, [67] and Turaki School, [68] [69] with a roll of 175. [70]

St Patrick's Catholic School is a co-educational state-integrated Catholic primary school for Year 1 to 8 students, [71] with a roll of 46. [72]

Notable people

Students of Taumarunui High School

Born in Taumarunui

Carmen Rupe Carmen Rupe.jpg
Carmen Rupe

Resident and New Years Honours recipients

Pei Te Hurinui Jones PeiTeHurinuiJones1930.jpg
Pei Te Hurinui Jones


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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Moawhango</span> Rural community in Manawatū-Whanganui, New Zealand

Moawhango is a rural community in the northern part of Rangitikei District of the Manawatū-Whanganui region of New Zealand's North Island. It is situated 19 km north of Taihape and 91 km northeast of Marton. Nearby Moawhango are located Moawhango River and Lake Moawhango.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tauwhare</span> Suburb in Waikato District, New Zealand

Tauwhare is a small rural community in the Waikato District on the outskirts of Hamilton. The Waitakaruru Arboretum and Sculpture Park is located here.

Ruakituri is a rural area in the northern Hawke's Bay region of New Zealand's eastern North Island, located north of Wairoa and west of Gisborne. The 2013 New Zealand census recorded 708 people living in the Ruakituri-Morere area.

Aramoho is a settlement on the Whanganui River, in the Whanganui District and Manawatū-Whanganui region of New Zealand's North Island. It is an outlying suburb of Whanganui.

Gonville is a residential suburb of Whanganui, New Zealand. It is under the local governance of the Whanganui District Council.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ongarue</span> Rual community in the Manawatū-Whanganui region of New Zealand

Ongarue is a rural community in the Ruapehu District and Manawatū-Whanganui region of New Zealand's North Island. It is located south of Te Kuiti and Waimiha, and north of Taumarunui. It is in meshblock 1041902, which had a population of 54 in 2013.

Taringamotu is a valley and rural community in the Ruapehu District and Manawatū-Whanganui region of New Zealand's North Island.

Ngapuke or Ngāpuke is a village and rural community in the Ruapehu district and Manawatū-Whanganui region of New Zealand's North Island. It is located on the south side of the valley of Pungapunga River, a tributary of the upper Whanganui River, east of Taumarunui and west of Tongariro and Kuratau on State Highway 41.