The name literally translated from Maori means 'two waters' referring to the nearby Northern Wairoa River and Kaipara Harbour. The township primarily serves the outlying farming area which consists mainly of cattle farming and kumara growing and the town declared itself as the Kumara capital of the world.
- Lockwood Smith, politician.
- Roy Billing OAM, noted NZ actor, now domiciled in Australia, was brought up in Ruawai where he attended Ruawai High School
Ruawai College is a secondary (years 7-13) school with a roll of 171. Ruawai District High School was established in 1929. In December 1995, Ruawai College installed a 128kbit/s DDS leased line connection that delivered internet services and offered dialup internet with IGRIN billing the service (IGRIN has since purchased by Orcon). The arrangement delivered internet to the rural community where the nearest dialup internet services were a toll call away, as well as giving the school low cost internet. At the time, only a handful of schools nationally had a campus-wide, hard wired internet service.
Both schools are coeducational. The college has a decile rating of 4 and the primary has a decile of 3.
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