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Rua-a-Tōrea (Māori)
Coordinates: 37°53′29.5″S 178°19′3″E / 37.891528°S 178.31750°E / -37.891528; 178.31750Coordinates: 37°53′29.5″S 178°19′3″E / 37.891528°S 178.31750°E / -37.891528; 178.31750
CountryNew Zealand
RegionGisborne Region
WardWaiapu Ward
Iwi (Tribe)Ngāti Porou
ElectorateEast Coast
Māori electorateIkaroa-Rāwhiti
 • MPKiritapu Allan
 • MP (Māori Seat)Meka Whaitiri
 • MayorRehette Stoltz
Highest elevation75 m (246 ft)
Lowest elevation25 m (82 ft)
 • Total759
Time zoneUTC+12 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+13 (NZDT)
Area code06

Ruatoria (Māori: Ruatōria) is a town in the Waiapu Valley of the Gisborne Region in the northeastern corner of New Zealand's North Island.[3][4] The town was originally known as Cross Roads then Manutahi and was later named Ruatorea in 1913, after the Māori Master female grower Tōrea who had some of the finest storage pits in her Iwi at the time (Te-Rua-a-Tōrea ).[3] In 1925 the name was altered to "Ruatoria",[3] although some texts retain the original spelling.[5][6][7]

Ruatoria's Whakarua Park is the home of the East Coast Rugby Football Union.[8]


The population of Ruatoria was 759 in the 2018 census, an increase of 39 from 2013. There were 396 males and 360 females. 20.2% of people identified as European/Pākehā and 95.3% as Māori. 32.0% were under 15 years old, 21.3% were 15–29, 37.6% were 30–64, and 9.1% were 65 or older.[2]

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [9]

The statistical area of Ruatoria-Raukumara, which at 693 square kilometres is much larger than this town, had a population of 1,233 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 30 people (2.5%) since the 2013 census, and a decrease of 54 people (-4.2%) since the 2006 census. There were 405 households. There were 666 males and 567 females, giving a sex ratio of 1.17 males per female. The median age was 32.8 years (compared with 37.4 years nationally), with 336 people (27.3%) aged under 15 years, 243 (19.7%) aged 15 to 29, 498 (40.4%) aged 30 to 64, and 156 (12.7%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 22.4% European/Pākehā, 94.2% Māori, 2.9% Pacific peoples, 1.2% Asian, and 0.7% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities). 45.7% of the population speak Māori.

The proportion of people born overseas was 2.4%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 36.3% had no religion, 38.9% were Christian and 7.8% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 93 (10.4%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 228 (25.4%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $19,400, compared with $31,800 nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 315 (35.1%) people were employed full-time, 132 (14.7%) were part-time, and 78 (8.7%) were unemployed.[9]


As the crow flies, Ruatoria is approximately 90 km (56 mi) north-northeast of Gisborne, and 30 km (19 mi) southwest of the East Cape Lighthouse.[10] By road it is 128 km (80 mi) from Gisborne, 3 km (1.9 mi) off State Highway 35.[3] It is at the bottom of the Waiapu Valley on the banks of the Waiapu River just downstream of where the river is formed by the joining of the Mata and Tapuaeroa Rivers.[3]


Precipitation is prodigiously high — the annual average precipitation total approaches 2,000 mm (79 in).[11] Precipitation is heavy all year-round, yet is particularly prodigious in the austral winter months from May to September. On 7 February 1973, Ruatoria had the highest ever air temperature recorded in the North Island (39.2 °C or 102.6 °F), the same day the nation's highest temperature was recorded in the South Island town of Rangiora (42.4 °C or 108.3 °F).[12]

Climate data for Ruatoria
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Daily mean °C (°F) 19
Average precipitation mm (inches) 104
Source: The Weather Network [11]


The principal industries in the district are related to agriculture and forestry.[citation needed] Attempts to sink oil wells in the area in the 1920s proved unprofitable.[citation needed]


The original shop, bunk house and cook house in the township of Tuparoa were destroyed by fire on two occasions between 1907 and 1913. Commerce was moved inland 5 miles to the area known as The Crossroads, northeast of the present town sitting on the area of the first river plain where it drops to the present river plain where the roads went north–south and to the east. (There was a race course on land alongside the Waiapu River below The Crossroads but that was abandoned by the end of the second world war). The Crossroads too was destroyed by fire during the first world war and in 1920 the first general store and accommodation was erected by William Hayes Owen Johnston (1890-1960) on what is now Tuparoa Road. (The shop has been dismantled after his death in 1960) He is buried with his third wife in the cemetery at Mahora on the Tuparoa road just before the junction with the side road to Reparoa. (His first and second wives were of the Gerrard family of Tuparoa and are buried in the cemetery at the top of the hill on the northern side of the creek which separated the old Tuparoa settlement).

From about 1925 onwards, Ruatoria began to replace Tuparoa as the main urban centre of the East Coast district of New Zealand. The transition to Ruatoria from Tuparoa was brought about by the increased reliability of State Highway 35, which at that time ran via the main street of Ruatoria. Tuparoa was disadvantaged by unreliable road access and a lack of all weather harbour.

The Rotokautuku Bridge, connecting Ruatoria to the northern side of Waiapu River, was built in 1964.[13] This 1964 bridge replaced the old bridge which had been built in the 1930s. The old piles were used for the new bridge, although they had to be lowered by a metre to accommodate the new bridge.

In the 1980s, Ruatoria was briefly notorious for an outbreak of arson attacks in the town, during a period of severe economic downturn.[14][15]

Significance to Māori[edit]

The Ngāti Porou proverb of identity relates to the area — Ko Hikurangi te maunga, ko Waiapu te awa, ko Ngāti Porou te iwi (Hikurangi is the mountain, Waiapu is the river, Ngāti Porou is the tribe).[5][16] Ruatoria is within the iwi's rohe, and Te Runanganui o Ngāti Porou has offices located in the town.[16][17]

The Waiapu River is of immense cultural, spiritual, economic, and traditional value to local Māori.[5][16][18] According to traditional beliefs, a number of taniwha dwell in and protect the river, in turn protecting the valley and its hapū.[18] Taniwha believed to be in Waiapu River include Kotuwainuku, Kotuwairangi, Ohinewaiapu, and Ngungurutehorowhatu.[18][19]

According to an affidavit of Hapukuniha Te Huakore Karaka, two taniwha were placed in strategic locations in the river to protect the hapū from invading tribes — one near Paoaruku (a locality at 37°49′38″S 178°20′21″E / 37.82716138°S 178.3390364°E / -37.82716138; 178.3390364[20]), and one at the Wairoa River (a small creek at 37°50′13″S 178°24′00″E / 37.83695267°S 178.3998781°E / -37.83695267; 178.3998781[21]). Karaka said that a bridge was built from Tikitiki to Waiomatatini, to the protest of local Māori who were concerned that it would disturb the taniwha. The night before the bridge was completed, a storm came washing the bridge away — the weather till then had been calm. From then, one person would drown in the river nearly every year. If it did not happen one year, two would drown the next. A local tohunga, George Gage (Hori Te Kou-o-rehua Keeti) was approached to help the situation, and after that there were no similar drownings.[19]


Ruatoria has several marae belonging to Ngāti Porou hapū:

In October 2020, the Government committed $5,756,639 from the Provincial Growth Fund to upgrade 29 Ngāti Porou marae, including Te Aowera Marae, Te Horo, Kariaka, Rauru, Umariki, Mangahanea, Mangarua, Reporua and Ruataupare Marae. It also committed $273,890 to upgrade Uepohatu Marae and $232,227 to upgrade Hiruharama Marae.[24]


Ngata Memorial College is a Year 1–13 co-educational public school[25] with a roll of 107 students as of July 2022.[26][27] The college opened in 1959.[28]

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Waiu O Ngati Porou is a Year 1–13 co-educational public school[29] with a roll of 111 students as of July 2022.[26][30]

Notable residents[edit]

The area was home to politician Sir Āpirana Ngata, and Te Moananui-a-Kiwa Ngārimu — the second of three Māori to receive a Victoria Cross.[3][31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b BE45 - Waipiro Bay (Ruatoria) (Map). 1:50,000. Topo50. Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Age and sex by ethnic group (grouped total response), for census usually resident population counts, 2006, 2013, and 2018 Censuses (urban rural areas)". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Soutar, Monty (23 August 2011). "East Coast places - Waiapu River valley". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Wellington, New Zealand: Manatū Taonga | Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  4. ^ "Our District". Your Council. Gisborne, New Zealand: Gisborne District Council. 19 April 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  5. ^ a b c Harmsworth, Garth; Warmenhoven, Tui Aroha (2002). "The Waiapu project: Maori community goals for enhancing ecosystem health" (PDF). Hamilton, New Zealand: New Zealand Association of Resource Management. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
  6. ^ "The Rise and Rise of Umuariki" (PDF). Te Nupepa O Te Taiawhiti. Gisborne, New Zealand: Gisborne Herald: 19. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  7. ^ "Pukemaire and Reporua" (PDF). Te Ao Maori O Te Tairawhiti. Gisborne, New Zealand: Gisborne Herald: 26. 7 September 2007. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  8. ^ "The Union". Ruatoria, New Zealand: East Coast Rugby Football Union. Retrieved 12 May 2012. We are located on the East Coast of the North Island, based in Ruatoria.
  9. ^ a b "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. Ruatoria-Raukumara (204900). 2018 Census place summary: Ruatoria-Raukumara
  10. ^ Google (12 May 2012). "Ruatoria" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Statistics: Ruatoria, New Zealand". The Weather Network. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  12. ^ "Climate Extremes". Education & Training. Auckland, New Zealand: NIWA. 31 December 2010. Temperature. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  13. ^ "Rotokautuku Bridge Opened". No. 118. Gisborne Photo News. 23 April 1964.
  14. ^ "Detailed history of district since 1950". Gisborne Herald website. Archived from the original on 2012-03-18. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  15. ^ Steve Braunias (2016-02-23). "'I had recurring nightmares in which I would fall victim to the anger of the Rastas'". The Spinoff.
  16. ^ a b c Reedy, Tamati Muturangi (4 March 2009). "Ngāti Porou - Tribal boundaries and resources". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Wellington, New Zealand: Manatū Taonga | Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  17. ^ "Whakapa Mai - Contact Details - Ngati Porou". Ruatoria, New Zealand: Te Runanga O Ngati Porou. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  18. ^ a b c "Deed of Settlement Schedule: Documents" (PDF). Ngāti Porou Deed of Settlement. Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Government. 22 December 2010. p. 1. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  19. ^ a b Karaka, Hapukuniha Te Huakore (28 July 2000). "Affidavit of Hapukuniha Te Huakore Karaka" (PDF). In the matter of the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 and in the matter of a claim by Apirana Tuahae Mahuika for and on behalf of Te Runanga o Ngati Porou. Wellington, New Zealand: Rainey Collins Wright & Co. pp. 6–7 Mana Moana/The Waiapu River; paras. 16–17. WAI272. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  20. ^ BE45 - Waipiro Bay (Paoaruku) (Map). 1:50,000. Topo50. Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  21. ^ BE45 - Waipiro Bay (Wairoa River, Gisborne) (Map). 1:50,000. Topo50. Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  22. ^ "Te Kāhui Māngai directory". Te Puni Kōkiri.
  23. ^ "Māori Maps". Te Potiki National Trust.
  24. ^ "Marae Announcements" (Excel). Provincial Growth Fund. 9 October 2020.
  25. ^ "Education Review Office Report". Education Review Office.
  26. ^ a b "New Zealand Schools Directory". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  27. ^ "Ministry of Education School Profile". Ministry of Education.
  28. ^ "History of the College". Ngata Memorial College. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  29. ^ "Education Review Office Report". Education Review Office.
  30. ^ "Ministry of Education School Profile". Ministry of Education.
  31. ^ Harper, Glyn; Richardson, Colin (2007). In the Face of the Enemy: The Complete History of the Victoria Cross and New Zealand. Auckland, New Zealand: HarperCollins. pp. 262–8. ISBN 978-1-86950-650-6. OCLC 154708169.

External links[edit]