For a number of years a coal-fired power station operated in Meremere, and much of the workforce lived in the town. The station was the first government-built large scale thermal power station, opening in 1958 and was a notable landmark for travellers along State Highway 1, which runs past the town. An aerial ropeway carried buckets of coal to the station from the Maramarua coal mine. The station closed in 1991 and there were plans during the 1990s to convert the station into a waste to energy plant, using waste from Auckland. These plans, known as the Olivine project, did not eventuate. In more recent times plans were in place for the station to be dismantled, however the remains of the station have been granted a reprieve and a 10-year agreement is now in place to utilise the site as a recycling center.
The town's population is predominantly Māori (over 66% at the 2006 census) and dwindled considerably until 2001 but increased by 2006. In 2006 it stood at 459, an increase of 105 people from the previous census in 1996.
Meremere Dragway, New Zealand's only permanent drag racing facility, is nearby and hosts many popular motorsports events throughout the year including Import All-Stars, 4&Rotary Nationals, Nostalgia Drags, the IHRA Championships and Nightspeed Dragwars. In addition, a new motorsports circuit has been constructed alongside State Highway 1 to the south of Meremere at Hampton Downs.