About our region


Rotorua is a city on the southern shores of Lake Rotorua in the heart of the North Island of New Zealand. The majority of the Rotorua District is in the Bay of Plenty Region, but a sizable southern section and a small western section are in the Waikato Region. Rotorua is just 60 kilometres south of Tauranga, 80 kilometres north of Taupo, 105 kilometres east of Hamilton and 230 kilometres southeast of Auckland.



Rotorua is a multi-cultural district of 69,200 residents, making it the 12th largest urban area in New Zealand. The major ethnic groups are European (67%), Maori (37%), Pacific Islands (5%) and Asian (6%). Note: Some people align with more than one ethnicity.

An international tourism icon, Rotorua is renowned as the heartland of Maori culture. In summer the collective resident and visitor population peaks at 100,000 and Rotorua hosts over 3 million visitors per annum. 



Rotorua enjoys a pleasant climate; plenty of sunshine in summer with crisp, clear days in winter. Rotorua averages more than 2000 sunshine hours and just over 140cm of rain annually.

Summer (Dec – Feb): Daytime 22 – 26ºC
Autumn (Mar – May): Daytime 15 – 26ºC
Winter (Jun – Aug): Daytime 10 – 16ºC
Spring (Sep – Nov): Daytime 13 – 21ºC



The total size of the Rotorua District is 261,906 hectares. This consists of 41% forest, 43% agriculture and 8% lakes. 

Rotorua city is nestled in a huge, ancient caldera 20km across at its widest point and 16km at the narrowest, with Lake Rotorua nearly 300 metres above sea level.


GDP in Rotorua District was $2.707 million for the year to September 2015 (up 3.8% for the year over the previous year). The tourism sector, which represents almost 10% of Rotorua’s economy, has been a key contributor to growth.

Median Rotorua house value in January 2016 was $295,241, up 8.9% on the previous year. The housing market has benefited from growth in the number of people choosing to live in Rotorua (1.0% in 2015 over the previous year).

Growth in spending in Rotorua is running at 5.6% pa, twice the national average. Spending growth in the district has also been boosted by improved population growth.


The Rotorua Lakes Council is a caring and progressive organisation that prides itself on high standards of service delivery and open and transparent governance.

Every year Council conducts an independent ‘Communitrak’ survey to investigate public perceptions and interpretations of council services and representation. To see the results, click here.


Our story begins in the mid 1300s, when the Arawa canoe arrived at Maketu on the Bay of Plenty coastline.  A young Te Arawa man, Ihenga, is said to have discovered Rotorua.  He was out hunting for delicacies for his pregnant wife, when one of his dogs disappeared chasing a kiwi.  The dog returned some time later with his coat wet and regurgitated a meal of half-digested fish. Ihenga realised he was near water, so he searched until he discovered Lake Rotoiti and later, Lake Rotorua.

Local Maori have hosted visitors as far back as the 1800s, when people from all over the world came to see the Pink and White Terraces at Lake Rotomahana. Known as the eighth wonder of the world because of the elaborate beauty of these natural sinter formations, the Pink and White Terraces were destroyed in 1886 when Mount Tarawera erupted.

The loss of 150 lives and devastation of the surrounding area, meant the people of the nearby villages moved away to rebuild their lives.  The people of Whakarewarewa invited them to settle in the geothermal valley where they continued to host and guide visitors.  Both their descendents and the people of Rotorua continue this proud tradition today.

Guide Maggie papakura

Rotorua is home to many interesting personalities and one of the most renowned is former Maori tour guide Maggie Papakura.

Born Margaret Pattison Thom in 1873, Maggie was the daughter of an English storekeeper and a high-born Ngati Wahiao woman. Her family taught her the genealogies, history and customs of her tribe, and her schooling, including tuition from an English governess, gave her the language skills and confidence to move easily between the Pakeha and Maori worlds.


On leaving school Maggie moved to Whakarewarewa – the ancestral home of her people. She became an accomplished hostess, entertainer and storyteller, and her services as a guide were sought after.

When asked by a visitor if she had a Maori surname, Maggie looked at a nearby geyser called Papakura and responded “My name is Papakura.” From then on she was known as guide Maggie Papakura.

Maggie married Francis Joseph Dennan in 1891 and went to live in the Wairarapa. Her only child William was born later that year, and she returned to Whakarewarewa with him after her husband left to work in the Taupo district. They never reunited and she continued her guiding career. In 1910 Maggie led a cultural group to London, where she met Richard Staples-Browne. They married in 1912 and she moved to Oxford. She remained there after they divorced in 1924, and was buried there following her death in April 1930 from a ruptured artery.

A year later a memorial was erected to her at Whakarewarewa, and this remains in the village today. Today, Maggie’s descendants still live at Whakarewarewa, continuing the guiding tradition and keeping their culture alive.


Hatupatu was a boy who lived on Mokoia Island with his family. One day he went inland hunting birds with his brothers. In the depths of the woods near the Waikato River he was captured by a terrifying female creature, Kurangaituku —“Kura-of-the-Claws”— who was feathered like a bird, and armed with very long sharp talons.

Hatupatu was taken to a cave near the top of a rocky mountain above the Waikato River, where Kurangaituku lived with her pet lizards and birds. One day when Kurangaituku was out in search of food he killed her lizards, freed the birds and fled from the cave.

One of her birds, however, flew off in search of its mistress, crying, “O Kura’, O Kura’, Hatupatu has gone!” The witch heard the bird and quickly raced back to her cave. Seeing what Hatupatu had done, she set out in a fury to get her revenge. It wasn’t long before the birdwoman caught up to the fleeing Hatupatu but before she could sink her claws into him he repeated a chant, taught to him by his elders and the great Arawa chief Ngtoroirangi, “Matiti, Matata!”. A great boulder in front of him split open.

Hatupatu leaped in and the rock closed behind him. Kurangaituku was just a split second too late and left tearing at the boulder with her claws. He was safe…for now.

When Hatupatu finally emerged from his rock shelter, Kurangaituku was keeping a watchful eye. He fled northward over the plains and hills toward Lake Rotorua. Just at the foot of Pohaturoa hill, which makes a green background for the steam clouds from the geysers and hot springs of Whakarewarewa, Hatupatu came to a great boiling pool of white churning mud, called Whangapipiro. He leapt across it safely and went racing on.

But Kurangaituku, not realising the hot pools were there until it was too late, tried to wade through the mud and down she sank – the boiling, heaving mud closing over her fierce feathered head. The gleeful Hatupatu went on to Sulphur Point on the southern shores of Lake Rotorua. He rested and decorated his head with a wreath of leaves, before plunging into the lake and swimming toward his home on Mokoia Island.

As he landed he threw down his wreath, which took root and became pohutukawa trees on the shore of the island.