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Tīrau's corrugated iron 'giant dog' and 'big sheep' buildings
Tīrau's corrugated iron 'giant dog' and 'big sheep' buildings
Coordinates: 37°59′S 175°45′E / 37.983°S 175.750°E / -37.983; 175.750Coordinates: 37°59′S 175°45′E / 37.983°S 175.750°E / -37.983; 175.750
CountryNew Zealand
Territorial authoritySouth Waikato District
 (2018 census)
 • Urban
Time zoneUTC+12 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+13 (NZDT)
Area code(s)07

Tīrau is a small town in the Waikato region of the North Island of New Zealand, 50 kilometres southeast of Hamilton. The town has a population of 804 (2018 census).[1] In the Māori language, "Tīrau" means "place of many cabbage trees."

Tīrau is a major junction in the New Zealand state-highway network. Just south of the township is the intersection of State Highway 1 and State Highway 5, where traffic from Auckland and Hamilton on State Highway 1 split to go either to Rotorua on SH 5, or continue along SH 1 to Taupo and beyond to Napier, Palmerston North and Wellington. State Highway 27 splits off State Highway 1 in the north of the town, providing a route north to the Coromandel Peninsula and an alternative route to Auckland, bypassing Hamilton.

Tīrau is primarily a farming town but in recent years has begun to exploit the income that comes from being at a major road junction.

The small community of Okoroire (with hot springs) is located just north of Tīrau.[2] Okoroire railway station was over 4 km (2.5 mi) to the west of the springs.[3]

History and culture[edit]

The Tīrau pub

European settlement[edit]

In the 19th century, Tīrau, then known as Oxford, was originally planned as a township.[4] However plans were changed after the entrepreneurial Rose family bought up large areas of land in the region, with the intention of making large returns when it came of high demand. Oxford later became a rural service town.

Oxford Royal Hotel opened on 15 April 1881.[5] A store followed in June,[6] but by September 1881 Oxford still only had the hotel and store.[7] 94 lots in the township,[4] which it had been planned to sell in 1891,[8] were offered for sale in 1882.[9] In the 1886 census, Oxford had a population of 48 in the 1896 census,[10] 27 in 1891[11] and 127 in 1911.[12]


Oxford was a name given to the proposed township when it was sold by McLean & Co in 1881.[13] It may have been to identify it as a sister town to Cambridge.[14] Oxford changed its name to Tirau on 23 May 1896.[15] To avoid confusion with Oxford in Canterbury, Piako County Council had been asked for a new name. They chose Tirau, which is the name of the hill[16] to the south.[17] The name was spelled without a macron until 2019, when the New Zealand Geographic Board made Tīrau the official name.[18]

Tīrau in 1958

Railway station[edit]

Oxford railway station was at the site where the Kinleith Branch crossed Okoroire Rd[19] The Thames Valley & Rotorua Railway Co. opened it on Monday 8 March 1886.[20] The first train left Oxford at 7.50am and arrived in Auckland at 4.35pm,[21] 133 mi 60 ch (215.2 km) away.[22] Morrinsville is 30 mi 60 ch (49.5 km) away. Oxford was the terminus for a few months until 21 June 1886, when the line was extended south to Putāruru[23] and Lichfield.[24] On 3 days a week, from the start of the train service, a coach ran to Ohinemutu, at Rotorua.[25]

New Zealand Railways Department took over the line on 1 April 1886.[26] By August there was a coal shed (23ft x 15ft, 50 tons capacity), 2 cottages, 60 ft (18 m) by 30 ft (9.1 m) goods shed, turntable and a stationmaster's house. In 1895 the stationmaster was moved to Putāruru and Tirau was downgraded to a flag station. However, by 1896 Tīrau also had a 4th class station, platform, cart approach, loading bank, cattle yards, 4-stall engine shed, urinals and a passing loop for 26 wagons (extended for 70 wagons in 1964). In 1898 it was recommended that the engine shed be moved to Grahamstown, though a double shed was then built there. By 1911 there were also sheep yards.[26]

563 passengers bought tickets in 1894,[27] 330 in 1895[28] and 308 in 1896, when the main import was coal and the main exports timber and sheep.[29] It was renamed Tirau on 8 March 1886.

In 1963 a new station in dark Huntly brick, with a storeroom, office, waiting room and platform for two railcars was built for about £4,800.[26] Closure to passengers was on 12 November 1968 and to goods, except private siding traffic, on 29 March 1981.[30] In 1989 the station was derelict, but still had a low level platform.[26]

The main remnant of the station, alongside Prospect Avenue,[31] is an NZHPT Category II listed (on 5 September 1985, List Number 4230) brick water tower.[32] Opening of the station was delayed a week as the water supply wasn't complete. Like other Thames Valley & Rotorua stations, water was fed to a 6,000 imp gal (27 m3) brick tank, supplied from the Oraka Stream, about 90 ch (1.8 km) to the south, by a Blake[33] hydraulic ram.[26] Similar towers remain at Lichfield and Ngātira.[34] Fonterra still moves freight by rail from its Tīrau factory,[35] which runs a very large anaerobic digester.[36]

  Former adjoining stations  
Line open, station closed
3.7 km (2.3 mi)
  Kinleith Branch   Taumangi
Line open, station closed
5.79 km (3.60 mi)[37]

Recent history[edit]

In 1991, local business man Henry Clothier took advantage of the town's relatively cheap real estate and high traffic volume by opening an Antique shop in the former Rose Bros. grocery store building. Many other businesses followed suit off the back of his success throughout the 1990s until today. Tīrau has built a reputation as a shopping destination for antiques, collectibles and other niche items.

In 2005/06 the South Waikato District Council is working, on behalf of the Tīrau Ward, in conjunction with the community, to develop a concept plan for Tīrau's future.[38] This project is taking the success of Tīrau's transformation over the past decade and linking it with the requirements of the Local Government Act 2002[39] new emphasis on the four well-beings, social, economic, environmental and cultural.


The local Paparāmu Marae and Te Apunga meeting house are affiliated with the Ngāti Raukawa hapū of Ngāti Mōtai and Ngāti Te Apunga.[40][41]


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [42]

The statistical area of Tīrau, which at 293 square kilometres is much larger than the town, had a population of 2,334 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 228 people (10.8%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 138 people (6.3%) since the 2006 census. There were 870 households. There were 1,173 males and 1,161 females, giving a sex ratio of 1.01 males per female. The median age was 36.7 years (compared with 37.4 years nationally), with 552 people (23.7%) aged under 15 years, 417 (17.9%) aged 15 to 29, 1,047 (44.9%) aged 30 to 64, and 321 (13.8%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 87.4% European/Pākehā, 19.8% Māori, 1.4% Pacific peoples, 2.8% Asian, and 1.0% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The proportion of people born overseas was 13.9%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 56.7% had no religion, 33.2% were Christian, 0.1% were Muslim, 0.3% were Buddhist and 2.6% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 234 (13.1%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 408 (22.9%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $36,800, compared with $31,800 nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 1,005 (56.4%) people were employed full-time, 282 (15.8%) were part-time, and 48 (2.7%) were unemployed.[42]

The town itself is in meshblocks 1124100-1124800, with a population of 804 people in the 2018 census.[1]


The Tīrau 'good shepherd', outside the local church

The town is now a well known tourist stop-off, and is characterised by many art works created out of corrugated iron. The church and many of the shops feature corrugated iron sculptures by local artist Steven Clothier and two large buildings are completely made from this material; the information centre which is shaped like a giant dog,[43] and the neighbouring sheep and ram building[44] - earning Tīrau the title of "Corrugated Capital of the World".

The Castle, a large toy museum on the town's southern limits which opened in 2000, can clearly be seen when heading towards the township from Rotorua or Taupo. The Tīrau dairy factory is New Zealand's only producer of lactalbumin, a key ingredient in the production of sports supplements.[45]


Tīrau is governed locally by the South Waikato District Council. Nationally, Tīrau is part of the Taupō general electorate and the Te Tai Hauāuru Māori electorate.[46]


The Royal Hotel ran coaches twice a week from Cambridge from 1882.[47] By 1924 AARD was running a regular bus between Hamilton and Rotorua, via Tīrau.[48] In 2018 47% of those in the Tīrau statistical area said they drove to work, 30% worked from home, 4% walked and 0.5% cycled.[49] An Urban Connector bus runs twice a day between Tokoroa and Tīrau, via Putāruru and Lichfield.[50] Tīrau is also served by InterCity buses to Auckland, Gisborne, Hastings and Wellington.[51]


Tirau Primary School is the sole school in Tīrau. It is a contributing primary school (Years 1–6) and has 144 students as of November 2021.[52][53]

The nearest secondary school is Putaruru College, 8 kilometres (5 mi) south of Tīrau, in Putāruru.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b "Meshblock Electoral Populations 2020 for proposed boundaries data". Statistics New Zealand. April 2020. Meshblocks 1124100, 1124200, 1124301-2, 1124400, 1124500, 1124600, 1124700 and 1124800.
  2. ^ "1:50,000 map". topomap.co.nz. Topo Map. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  3. ^ "Current and historical topographic maps (topomaps) of New Zealand". www.mapspast.org.nz. 1944. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b "1881 Plan of the township of Oxford". www.aucklandcity.govt.nz. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  5. ^ "WAIKATO TIMES". paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 21 April 1881. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  6. ^ "WAIKATO TIMES". paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 23 June 1881. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  7. ^ "A TRIP TO OXFORD. WAIKATO TIMES". paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 22 September 1881. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  8. ^ "TOWNSHIP OF OXFORD. Postponement of Sale. WAIKATO TIMES". paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 23 April 1881. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  9. ^ "NEW ZEALAND HERALD". paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 20 January 1882. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  10. ^ "RESULTS OF A CENSUS". StatsNZ. 28 March 1886.
  11. ^ "RESULTS OF A CENSUS". StatsNZ. 5 April 1891.
  12. ^ "Report on the results of a census". University of California. 1911.
  13. ^ "AUCKLAND STAR". paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 24 January 1881. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  14. ^ "Putaruru and Tīrau". teara.govt.nz. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  15. ^ "GAZETTE NOTICES. NEW ZEALAND HERALD". paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 28 May 1895. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  16. ^ "THAMES ADVERTISER". paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 19 April 1895. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  17. ^ "Tirau, Waikato". NZ Topo Map. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  18. ^ "NZGB notices – June 2019". Land Information New Zealand. 21 June 2019. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  19. ^ "Current and historical topographic maps (topomaps) of New Zealand". www.mapspast.org.nz. 1944. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  20. ^ "The New Railway Time-Table". Waikato Times. 6 March 1886. p. 2. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  21. ^ "NEW ZEALAND HERALD". paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 9 March 1886. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  22. ^ "Railway Extension". New Zealand Herald. 23 February 1886. p. 5. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  23. ^ "Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives — 1894 Session I — D-01 Page 45". atojs.natlib.govt.nz. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  24. ^ "Opening of Railway Line to Lichfield". New Zealand Herald. 15 June 1886. p. 4. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  25. ^ "NEW ZEALAND HERALD". paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 11 March 1886. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  26. ^ a b c d e "Stations" (PDF). NZR Rolling Stock Lists. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  27. ^ "Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives — 1894 Session I — D-02 Page 17". atojs.natlib.govt.nz. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  28. ^ "Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives — 1895 Session I — D-02 Page 25". atojs.natlib.govt.nz. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  29. ^ "Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives — 1896 Session I — D-02 Page 11". atojs.natlib.govt.nz. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  30. ^ Scoble, Juliet (2010). "Names & Opening & Closing Dates of Railway Stations" (PDF). Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand.
  31. ^ "Prospect Ave". Google Maps. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  32. ^ "Water Tower". www.heritage.org.nz. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  33. ^ "John Blake - Graces Guide". www.gracesguide.co.uk. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  34. ^ "Operative District Plan" (PDF). South Waikato District Council. July 2015.
  35. ^ "Fonterra and Toll Sign 20-year Rail Agreement". www.scoop.co.nz. November 2004. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  36. ^ "Biogas could help reduce New Zealand's emissions - study". Stuff. 21 December 2020. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  37. ^ Yonge, John Roger; Company, Quail Map (1993). New Zealand Railway and Tramway Atlas. Quail Map Company. ISBN 9780900609923.
  38. ^ "South Waikato District Council". Archived from the original on 10 March 2007. Retrieved 2 April 2006.
  39. ^ "Local Government Act 2002". Archived from the original on 24 March 2006. Retrieved 2 April 2006.
  40. ^ "Te Kāhui Māngai directory". tkm.govt.nz. Te Puni Kōkiri.
  41. ^ "Māori Maps". maorimaps.com. Te Potiki National Trust.
  42. ^ a b "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. Tīrau (185800). 2018 Census place summary: Tīrau
  43. ^ "The i-SITE Visitor Centre". Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  44. ^ Wilkie, Kelsie (20 October 2016). "Corrugated iron sheep and ram buildings in Tirau for sale". Stuff.
  45. ^ "Tirau". Fonterra. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  46. ^ "Find my electorate". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  47. ^ "WAIKATO TIMES". paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 27 July 1882. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  48. ^ "WAIKATO TIMES". paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. 22 April 1924. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  49. ^ "2018 Census place summaries". www.stats.govt.nz. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  50. ^ "District Circuit". www.southwaikato.govt.nz. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  51. ^ "Book Bus Tickets Online | InterCity". www.intercity.co.nz. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  52. ^ "New Zealand Schools Directory". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
  53. ^ Education Counts: Tirau Primary School

External links[edit]