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Waikato River passing through Ngāruawāhia
Waikato River passing through Ngāruawāhia
Population (2010 estimate)[1]
 • Territorial 5,506
Time zone NZST (UTC+12)
 • Summer (DST) NZDT (UTC+13)

Ngāruawāhia (Māori pronunciation: [ŋaːɾʉaˈwaːhia]) (pop. 5,506[1]) is a town in the Waikato region of the North Island of New Zealand. It is located 20 km north-west of Hamilton at the confluence of the Waikato and Waipa Rivers, adjacent to the Hakarimata Range. Ngāruawāhia lies within the Hamilton Urban Area, the fourth largest urban area in New Zealand. The location was once considered as a potential capital of New Zealand[2] and is regarded as the Māoridom capital.[3]

Name origin[edit]

One of the few surviving examples of Ngaruawahia's previous name is the old Newcastle Butchery building, c.1921.

The name Ngāruawāhia means "the opened food pits", which derives from a great feast in the 17th century. Te Ngaere, a Ngāti Tamainupō chief, and Heke-i-te-rangi, a Ngāti Maniapoto woman, had eloped and settled at Ngāruawāhia, causing a rift between their tribes. When their first child was born, Ngāti Maniapoto were invited to the celebration in an attempt to reconcile the tribes. Te Ngaere's father named the boy Te Mana-o-te-rangi in honour of Ngāti Maniapoto. Peace was established between the tribes, and Te Ngaere shouted "Wāhia ngā rua" (break open the food pits).[4][5][6]


During the 19th century, Ngaruawahia was named Queenstown and then Newcastle. However, the town returned to the original name in 1878.[7]

20th century[edit]

Officers from the United States visited Ngaruawahia during World War II and would share food at Hāngis.[8] Queen Elizabeth II has visited Ngaruawahia on two occasions (1953 & 1974).[9] On the latter occasion, then Māori Queen Dame Te Ātairangikaahu and her husband Whatumoana Paki welcomed Queen Elizabeth II to the local marae.[10] The Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival was held in 1973, and featured many music acts, including some that went on to become internationally famous such as Black Sabbath and Split Enz.[11] It was the first large outdoor music festival in New Zealand.

In 1980, Mayor Latta released a book about the history of the town titled 'Meeting of the Waters'.[1]

In March 1998, a freight train derailed on the local North Island Main Trunk line's rail bridge across the Waikato River. The incident caused structural damage to the bridge.[1]

21st century[edit]

By April 2001, the damaged rail bridge was mended.[1]

In 2008, Ngaruawahia set a world record for the largest haka[12] and by 2010 the town had its own community news.[1]

In 2011, murals were installed for Ngaruawahia's 150th anniversary in 2013 [13] Ngaruawahia High School (which opened in 1963) celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013.

In May 2016, Heather du Plessis-Allan (an NZME broadcaster) claimed that the "town is rotting".[3] The broadcaster later accepted a challenge to visit the town[14] and an article relating to the incident appeared on a Waikato Times front page.[15] According to Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson, du Plessis-Allan "really upset locals".[16] In June 2016, local mayor Allan Sanson said du Plessis-Allan spent around three hours in the town, apologizing to residents.[17]


Māori King Movement[edit]

The flag hoisted at Ngāruawāhia on the proclamation of Pōtatau Te Wherowhero as the first Māori King, drawn 1863.

Ngāruawāhia is home to the Kīngitanga.[3] The first Māori King, Pōtatau Te Wherowhero, was crowned at Ngāruawāhia in 1858 and was living there when he died two years later. The current Māori King is Tuheitia Paki who obtained the throne at Turangawaewae Marae immediately following his mother's passing in 2006.[7][18]

Tribal Huk[edit]

A local gang is Tribal Huk, who have been seen as heroes by the community for providing lunches to schoolchildren in Ngaruawahia, Hamilton and Huntly.[19] In particular, they have been known for making sandwiches[20] which earned them the nickname of Sandwich Gang.[21]

2016 Anti-P movement[edit]

In October 2016, the town became a regular conversation topic nationwide following Tribal Huk president Jamie Pink beginning a movement against P.[21] Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson supported Pink's message to Ngaruawahia methamphetamine dealers to either leave the town within 24 hours or "visits" would begin.[22] The demand was also supported by members of the community who had gathered at a local meeting[23] as the methamphetamine drug was blamed for an apparent rise of crime in the town.[24] According to a gang source, Ngaruawahia became P free[25] but the Police Association stated that there was no evidence that P dealers had left Ngaruawahia.[26] There is additionally concern Pink has damaged the work that Tribal Huk did feeding a thousand Waikato schoolchildren.[21]

In November 2016, another community meeting was held. Pink was not present at this meeting."[27]


A Bible is traditionally used during the crowning of a Māori monarch.[18] In 1995, the Holy Trinity Anglican Church burned down. In the 1996 census, the majority of residents identified as Christian. By 1998, a new Holy Trinity Anglican Church building had replaced the old one.[1]

Christian Youth Camps[edit]

On the northern side of the Waipa River is the Christian Youth Camps (CYC), the largest youth camp site in New Zealand. CYC started in the early 1960s, with large Easter conventions. Today there are two separate camp sites on 38 hectares of land. The camp offers school holiday camps throughout the year. During the terms, the camps are used by various groups, including schools, churches and sporting organisations.

Sport and recreation[edit]

Football (soccer)[edit]

Ngaruawahia United, known as "The Green Machine", is the local football (soccer) club, founded in 1968. As of 2009, it comprised sixteen junior sides, three senior sides and a women's team. Ngaruawahia United has their A team in the Lotto Sport Italia NRFL Division 2, their B team in the Federation League and their C team in the Waikato League. The women's team competes in their Waikato B Division.

Ngaruawahia will again host Waikato FC of the New Zealand Football Championship for the 2009-10 New Zealand Football Championship season. Waikato FC will play their matches at Centennial Park. Centennial Park serves as the home ground for Ngaruawahia United, and has been the home venue for ASB Premiership side Waikato FC in past seasons.[citation needed]

Rugby league[edit]

A gun turret of the paddle-steamer gunboat Pioneer, now mounted near the Waikato River.

The town's rugby league teams are Ngaruawahia Panthers and Turangawaewae.[28] The Ngaruawahia Rugby League Club is the oldest such club in the Waikato. Early games were played on varying venues, for instance Taupiri paddock and Paterson Park. The first major match for the town was held in August 1911 when they lost to Auckland 22 - 36 at the Caledonian Ground in Frankton. Ngaruawahia did however beat Hamilton United 27 - 4 in the first ever Northern Union game to be played at Hamilton's Steele Park in 1912. The senior team were Champion of Champions in 1956 and 1957.[29]

Ngaruawahia is the home of the rugby league team Turangawaewae RLC, which is named after the marae opposite the clubrooms. The club currently holds the record for the first team to win consecutive titles in the annual Waicoa Bay Premiers Competition, consisting of all teams in the Waikato, Coast and Bay Of Plenty regions.[citation needed] Ngaruawahia Rugby League Club (Panthers) are 2011 champions, Premiers, U17, U14, U13 are all champions.

River activities[edit]

The local regatta has been a fundamental event for the region for well over a century. An event is held every year in March on the Waikato River.[7] The first regatta was an unofficial event in 1892, involving both Māori and Pākehā festivities. The regatta provided a means of association between two ethnic groups, socially and culturally. The first official regatta took place in 1896 and since then has grown to become one of New Zealand's largest aquatic festivals.[30] During the centennial regatta in March 1996, over 48,000 people visited the town to see thousands of performers from a number of countries.[1]

For many years, jumping off the rail bridge has been a tradition. However, groups such as KiwiRail want the practice to end.[31]

Former residents[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Mark Smith (2012). Ngaruawahia 1980-2010 A Brief History. Lions Club of Ngaruawahia Incorporated Charitable Trust. ISBN 978-0-473-21930-7. Retrieved 9 October 2016. 
  2. ^ Ngaruawahia - a small town with a big history
  3. ^ a b c Phillipa Yalden. "Ngaruawahia residents riled at columnist's 'town is rotting' comments".  Retrieved October 2016
  4. ^ Swarbrick, Nancy. "Waikato places - Ngāruawāhia". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Updated 8 December 2011.
  5. ^ "Heritage planners minutes" (PDF). Waikato District Council. 18 June 2010. Retrieved 19 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "Puke-i-aahua Pa Palisade, Ngaaruaawahia". Retrieved 19 April 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c Ian D. Robinson (2010). Waikato River It's People, Places & History. David Bateman Limited, New Zealand, 2009. ISBN 9781869537531. Retrieved November 2016
  8. ^ American officer and Tainui kuia Retrieved 2016
  9. ^ 1953 & 1974 – Queen Elizabeth’s Visits
  10. ^ Māori and English Queens, 1974
  11. ^ 1973 – The Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival
  12. ^ "Top of the south aims for largest haka". The Nelson Mail. July 2010. 
  13. ^ Aaron Leaman (May 2011). "Murals set scene for 150th mark". Waikato Times. 
  14. ^ Belinda Feek (May 2016). "Heather du Plessis-Allan accepts challenge to visit Ngaruawahia". Hamilton News. The New Zealand Herald. 
  15. ^ 'Epic front page' prompts Heather du Plessis-Allan visit to Ngaruawahia
  16. ^ 'Rotting' Ngaruawahia hits back at Heather du Plessis-Allan
  17. ^ Nancy El-Gamel (June 2016). "Broadcaster Heather du Plessis-Allan gets a tour of 'rotting' Ngaruawahia".  Retrieved October 2016
  18. ^ a b "Tuheitia new Maori king". New Zealand Press Association. The New Zealand Herald. August 2006. 
  19. ^ "Tribal Huk members show they are good neighbours in Ngaruawahia". Waikato Times. October 2016. 
  20. ^ "Shades of Bad? The changing face of NZ gang culture". Special Broadcasting Service. 
  21. ^ a b c Jo Lines-Mackenzie (October 2016). "Ngaruawahia community on edge after gang unrest". Waikato Times. 
  22. ^ "Gang boss gives P dealers ultimatum". October 2016. 
  23. ^ "Ngaruawahia gang leader tells drug dealers: Leave - or else". New Zealand Herald. October 2016. 
  24. ^ "'They have 24 hours': Gang boss issues menacing warning to meth dealers to get out of town after his own daughter, 13, was offered the drug". Daily Mail. October 2016. 
  25. ^ "Tribal Huk clears Ngaruawahia of P dealers, as promised". Stuff. October 2016. 
  26. ^ "There's no evidence that P dealers have left Ngaruawahia after Tribal Huk claims, says Police Association". October 2016. 
  27. ^ "Strong police presence at Ngaruawahia community meeting". Newstalk ZB. The New Zealand Herald. November 2016. 
  28. ^ "People matter most in lovely Ngaruawahia". Waikato Times. 20 July 2012. 
  29. ^ Ngaruawahia Rugby League: 1911-2011, 100 Years Ngaruawahia Rugby League Football Club, 2011
  30. ^ The Regatta
  31. ^ Kelsey Wilkie (November 4, 2016). "Ending the bridge jumping tradition in Ngaruawahia".  Retrieved November 2016
  32. ^ Kelvin Cruickshank is Sensing Murder? I'm sensing comedy

Coordinates: 37°40′S 175°9′E / 37.667°S 175.150°E / -37.667; 175.150