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Tokoroa, New Zealand
Tokoroa in autumn (May 2012)
Tokoroa in autumn (May 2012)
Tokoroa, New Zealand is located in New Zealand
Tokoroa, New Zealand
Tokoroa, New Zealand
Coordinates: 38°14′S 175°52′E / 38.233°S 175.867°E / -38.233; 175.867
Country New Zealand
Region Waikato
District South Waikato district
Population (June 2014 estimate[1])
 • Total 13,550

Tokoroa (Maori: Te Kaokaoroa o Patetere) is the fifth-largest town in the Waikato region of the North Island of New Zealand and largest settlement in the South Waikato district. Located 30 km southwest of Rotorua, close to the foot of the Mamaku Ranges, it is mid-way between Taupo and Hamilton on State Highway One. Its 2006 census population was 13,600, a significant decline from the 2001 figure of 14,950.[2] Other notable South Waikato settlements are Putaruru, Tirau and Arapuni.


Early history[edit]

It is traditionally recorded that one of the great fighting chiefs of the Ngati Kahupungapunga, Tokoroa by name, was slain by Ngati Raukawa during the siege of Pōhaturoa, a volcanic plug adjacent to Atiamuri, 27 km south of Tokoroa on the main Taupo highway. It is probable that some early surveyor applied the name Tokoroa as a tribute to the old chief's memory.[citation needed] The name Tokoroa first appeared on the early maps of the 1860s, although this was for an area 50 km north east of today's Tokoroa.


Tokoroa is one of the most recent towns in New Zealand history. It was first developed around 1917 by the Matarawa land company as a potential farming area, although a few families had already settled there after 1910, and a school with 9 pupils was founded in 1915.[3] The land was poor due to pumice soils but could be made to carry dairy cattle.[4] However, the soil had serious deficiencies that became known as "bush sickness" later found to be cobalt deficiency. In the 1930s the deficiency was addressed and farming became profitable.[5]

From 1925 to 1935 pinus radiata was planted near Tokoroa, as the trees were not affected by the soil deficiencies. As they matured, Tokoroa was developed as a residential satellite for Kinleith Mill, New Zealand Forest Products Limited's integrated timber, pulp and paper mill at Kinleith, 8 km south of Tokoroa. In 1948 the town boasted a population of 1,100. By the time NZFP began to downscale its operations at Kinleith in the 1980s, Tokoroa had a population of 18,000 – just 2,000 below the number necessary to be proclaimed a city. In recent years however, the downscaling at Kinleith and in other industries has resulted in a drop in population, and only 13,600 people resided in Tokoroa as of 2006.



Surrounding the township are many dairy farms and plantation forests. There are many scenic reserves around the town – the artificial lake 'Moana-Nui' (formed by damming the Matarawa Stream) lies within a popular recreational park.

The town's location in the centre of the central North Island and its developed transportation network provide plenty of potential for warehousing and distribution. Tokoroa lies in the centre of a triangle made up of the popular tourism destinations of Rotorua, Waitomo and Taupo. There are about forty five lakes within a forty-five-minute drive of Tokoroa.

One can travel to four major centres, each less than a one hour drive:


As well as the central business district, the township is made up of many subdivisions, each built in different stages of the Kinleith complex's development. These subdivisions are:

  • Parkdale
  • Paraonui
  • Papanui
  • Matarawa
  • Aotea
  • Strathmore
  • Amisfield

Many of the street names of the town were named by the first managing director of N.Z. Forest Products Ltd.(builders of the Kinleith mill), Sir David Henry (1888–1963), after places near his home town of Edinburgh, in Scotland. David Henry Primary School is a key example of him and his namesaking.


Tokoroa is a town of over 13,600 people, with around 1.5 million people – 40% of New Zealand's total population – living within a 250 km (155 mi) radius.[citation needed]

Tokoroa is a multicultural town, with about 35% of the population being Maori and another 20% from the Pacific Islands (mainly the Cook Islands). The remaining 45% of the population is made up mainly by NZ European people. Tokoroa has New Zealand's largest Pacific Island community outside of Auckland and Wellington.


The economic lifeblood of Tokoroa is forestry, centred on the nearby Carter Holt Harvey Kinleith Mill; and dairy farming. In 1995, Fonterra built the southern hemisphere's largest cheese factory in Lichfield,[6] some 5 km north of the town. Recently, due to an increase in dairy prices, large amounts of previously forested land are being converted into farmland.

The main rural activities of the district are sheep and dairying. Forestry is still however the most important primary industry. Timber is milled and processed at Kinleith, with many of the Kinleith workers living in Tokoroa. Tokoroa is a marketing and servicing centre with associated industries. These include the manufacture of cheese, wooden boxes, joinery, sawmilling, general engineering, and the quarrying of building stone.

Although Tokoroa's economy primarily tends to revolve around timber and farming, many large retail companies have begun investing in Tokoroa – Foodstuffs have recently opened a newly constructed New World (supermarket) on Tokoroa's main street. Progressive Enterprises have recently built New Zealand's first Countdown (supermarket) featuring Te Reo signage in Tokoroa.


Tertiary education is important to Tokoroa, through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and Waiariki Institute of Technology. As well as several primary, an intermediate, and two high schools, it also notably boasts a Te Kura Kaupapa Māori primary school offering education in the Te reo Māori language.

Tertiary education

Secondary schools

  • Forest View High School
  • Tokoroa High School

Alternative Education (for Secondary students who work better with full teacher guidance, non-classroom)

  • Forest View High School Alternative Education – Tautoko Kura

Intermediate schools

  • Tokoroa Intermediate School
  • Tainui Full Primary school
  • Amisfield Full Primary School
  • Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Hiringa

Primary schools

  • David Henry School, Tokoroa
  • Strathmore School, Tokoroa
  • Tokoroa North School, Tokoroa
  • Bishop Edward Gaines, Tokoroa
  • Tokoroa Central School, Tokoroa
  • Cargill Open Plan School, Tokoroa
  • Tainui Full Primary School, Tokoroa
  • Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Hiringa


  • Te Kohanga Reo
  • Clyde Street Kindergarten
  • Taumafai Aoga Amata – Samoan Hall
  • Balmoral Kindergarten
  • Paraonui Kindergarten
  • Te Awhi Man Kohanga Reo
  • Ata Marie Kohanga Reo
  • Arohanui Kindergarten
  • Zuzus Young Explorers Centre
  • David Henry Kindergarten
  • Te Ara Metua Punaga Reo Kindergarten
  • Raitu Punanga Reo
  • St. Lukes P.I.P.C Punanga Reo

Town facilities and attractions[edit]

Tokoroa has a number of Tourist and visiting attractions, as well as many facilities for local use.

Tokoroa Greenman 'OZ'

Talking Poles[edit]

Since 1997, Tokoroa has been "sprouting" Talking Poles, consisting mainly of carvings representing ethnic culture, sport recreation, industry in the town and stories about the town. This one, photographed shortly after its unveiling in 2004, is a chainsaw carving of a deodar cedar which died from natural causes. It is representative of the Greenman in Welsh mythology and is located on State Highway 1, immediately adjacent to the town's information centre.

As at October 2008, 42 Talking Poles are displayed around the town. Tokoroa Talking Poles symposium is convened every two years at the Tokoroa campus of Te Wananga o Aotearoa. The Greenman was carved in 2004 by Mr. Andy Hankcock.[7]

Lake Moana-Nui[edit]

Tokoroa's man-made lake Te Moana-Nui was built in the late 1970s for the community involving excavatation by large earthmoving equipment and a concrete dam wall with a drain valve control. A wooden bridge located on the south west end of the dam wall that supported and controlled the drain valve, was a favourite 'bomb' spot and bare foot skiing down the spillway was an early extreme sport unique to Tokoroa. During the 1970s 'The Lake' was used extensively by youths and was referred to in local parlance as 'Tokoroa Beach'. On many summer afternoons it was a common sight to see youth lying on the footpath across the road from the lake drying out after a swim.

In the period following the initial construction of the lake in the late 1970s, the lake began to detriorate due to low rainfall and poor water flows, which saw lake weed overtake the swimming areas. The lake weed eventually became a drowning hazard that claimed the lives of some young people over the preceding decade. In this sense the project was a failure and lake Moana-Nui is now considered unsafe. Many ducks now use the lake. In an effort to control the problems, signs were erected banning access to the dam wall and basic handrailing was put up to prevent access. The lake was subject to regular draining in an effort to control the weed and to flush out the old water. While this did slightly improve things in the short term, people are still warned not to swim in it. The lake is undergoing a major cleaning project so that it can be used in the future.[8]

There are picnic tables built around the lakes arc and there are four playgrounds. On the rear end of Te Moana-Nui are gardens placed there by Tokoroa's local children.

Town Library[edit]

The current location of Tokoroa's library holds many historic memories for the locals and outsiders as it was previously the town's cinema. It currently holds a library with a full computer suite, at least 30 book shelves, more than 2000 books, a reference area, and leisure offerings. It is located in the Tokoroa town centre.

Tokoroa Hospital[edit]

Tokoroa Hospital provides limited medical services for a population of approximately 22,800 people in the South Waikato District. Currently the hospital provides 21 beds made up of a 17-bed inpatient ward and a 4-bed maternity ward. There is also a dedicated emergency department with capacity for five patients, and a fully functional theatre suite presently used for minor day surgery. Other facilities include x-ray and laboratory services, a cafe, a helipad for patient transfer, and various allied health services. District health and public health nurses, diabetes nurse specialists, an occupational therapist, a physiotherapist, and a social worker are based at the hospital site, which also accommodates the Tokoroa Council of Social Services (a local umbrella organisation for various community services). Various clinics with visiting specialists are held at the hospital.[9]

Culture and sports[edit]

Tokoroa hosts a number of sporting, cultural and music events every year including the Polynesian festival.

Polynesian Festival[edit]

Tokoroa Polynesian Festival occurs every year during September. Tokoroa's local schools and preschools give Samoan, Maori and Cook Islands performances, where you hear the Cook Island drumming and dancing and the Maori performance being displayed on the huge stage at the new South Waikato Events Centre, located at The Tokoroa Memorial Sports Ground. 2009 host was NZ artist J.Williams and Erika.


Tokoroa is in the Waikato Province, with the Waikato ITM Cup team the provincial representative team, and the Chiefs Super Rugby team the regional Super Rugby franchise.

Memorial Sports Ground[edit]

The sports ground is used every weekend and is in use throughout the week-days. The Memorial Sports Ground comprises –

  • Eight full netball courts
  • Eight full tennis courts
  • Three full rugby fields
  • Eight touch or rugby league fields
  • One full soccer fields
  • One rugby club – SURF

Also, South Waikato District Council is building a new South Waikato Event Centre that will cater for a gymnasium, performing arts stage, meeting room, changing rooms, showers and toilets and many more, which is due to be complete on 1 November 2012.

Y.M.C.A sports centre[edit]

Tokoroa's Y.M.C.A hosts a number of indoor and outdoor events, such as :

  • Indoor skating
  • Outdoor Archery
  • Indoor and outdoor soccer
  • Basketball
  • Netball
  • Indoor hockey
  • Dance classes

The centre has recently undergone a major upgrade, including heat pumps, which heat up the whole stadium. New stadium lights were installed by a local Tokoroa company.



Tokoroa has extensive cycleways which link the town centre with the outlying suburbs. These cycleways consist of a mixture of dedicated cycle lanes and mixed use cycle/walk ways. There is an extensive cycleway from Browning Street, Tokoroa that leads to Kinleth which features spectacular views of the town and the Kinleith mill.


Private cars are the transport medium of choice in this spread-out town. Walking has been gaining in popularity in recent years, however the relative lack of congestion compared to other towns and ample availability of parking results in private car use being the main mode of transport.

New Zealand's main road artery State Highway 1 runs through Tokoroa's eastern suburbs. The speed limit through the northern end of State Highway 1 is 60 km/h and the southern end of State Highway 1 is 80 km/h. Tokoroa is also accessible from the south-west via State Highway 32. Tokoroa is a non-traffic light town.

Tokoroa is served by bus services such as Intercity Coachlines and Naked Bus operating on routes along State Highway 1.


The Kinleith Branch line runs through Tokoroa on its route between Waharoa on the East Coast Main Trunk line, and its terminus at the Kinleith mill to the south of the town. Most freight trains on the line travel between the Kinleith mill and the Port of Tauranga. There has never been any passenger services on the line. There is no longer a station or rail freight yard in Tokoroa.

Previous to the construction of the Kinleith mill and the current Kinleith Branch line, a private bush tramway operated by the Taupo Totara Timber Company, used to operate along the route of the present line along its length between Putaruru and the company's mill at Mokai, near Taupo.

Radio stations[edit]

There are several local radio stations in Tokoroa:

As well as local repeaters of national radio stations:

  • Radio New Zealand National 729 kHz/101.3 MHz
  • Newstalk ZB 1413 kHz
  • Radio Rhema 99.7 MHz
  • The Hits 97.3 MHz

Notable residents[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2014 (provisional)". Statistics New Zealand. 22 October 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014.  Also "Infoshare; Group: Population Estimates - DPE; Table: Estimated Resident Population for Urban Areas, at 30 June (1996+) (Annual-Jun)". Statistics New Zealand. 22 October 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  2. ^ "Subnational Population Estimates". New Zealand Department of Statistics. 20 October 2006. p. 16. 
  3. ^ "History of Tokoroa". Tokoroa Intermediate. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  4. ^ "Pumice Lands Proved". Ohinemuri Gazette. XXXII (4228). 14 February 1921. p. 2. 
  5. ^ Swarbrick, Nancy (13 July 2012). "Waikato Places - Tokoroa". Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 
  6. ^ "Fonterra Cheese Factory". South Waikato District Council. Retrieved 2010-01-16. [dead link]
  7. ^ "Chainsaw man". 
  8. ^ "Lake Maona Nui". 
  9. ^ "Waikato District Health Board". 
  • Reed, A. W. (2002). The Reed Dictionary of New Zealand Place Names. Auckland: Reed Books. ISBN 0-7900-0761-4. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°14′S 175°52′E / 38.233°S 175.867°E / -38.233; 175.867