Ruapehu District CouncilCommunity profile
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Ruapehu District

About the profile areas

The 2018 population for Ruapehu District is 12,297, with a population density of 0.02 persons per hectare.


Note: This page displays the area boundaries used for the 2018 Census. In some cases, these are significantly different to the pre-2018 areas. For more on this, see the Census 2018 page.

Location and boundaries

The Ruapehu District is located in the central part of New Zealand’s North Island, about 340 kilometres south of Auckland. The Ruapehu District is bounded by Waitomo District in the north, Taupo District in the east, Rangitikei District and Whanganui District in the south, and Stratford District and New Plymouth District in the west.

Name origin

The Ruapehu District is named after Mount Ruapehu, which was named from the Māori words “rua” meaning “pit” and “pehu” meaning “to explode”.

Profile areas
Ruapehu District

Settlement history

European settlement of the Ruapehu District dates from the 1820s, although population was minimal until the late 1800s. Land was used mainly for farming and saw milling. Growth took place during the early 1900s, aided by the opening of the North Island Main Track railway line in 1908, the establishment of numerous small townships, and coal mining. Market gardening and sheep and cattle grazing became important industries from the 1920s. An Army Base was established at Waiouru in 1940. The population of the District began to decline from the 1970s, affected by the closure of dairy factories. Tourism became an important industry from this time, largely due to proximity to ski fields. The Census population continued to decline between 1996 and 2013, falling from nearly 17,000 to less than 12,000 people. During this period dwelling occupancy rates declined from about 78% to 65%. It should be noted that the population of the District increases substantially during the ski season.

Land use

The Ruapehu District is predominantly rural, with several small townships and villages. The main townships are the ski towns of National Park and Ohakune, the army town of Waiouru, and the rural service centre of Taumarunui. The townships are popular holiday areas, particularly during the ski season. Rural land is used largely for farming, agriculture and forestry, with some defence force land. The Ruapehu District encompasses a total land area of about 6,700 square kilometres.


The Ruapehu District is served by State Highways 1, 4, 41, 43, 47 and 49, and The Northern Explorer railway line.

Major features

Major features of the District include Tongariro National Park, Whanganui National Park, Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro, Turoa Ski Area, Whakapapa Ski Area, Waiouru Military Camp, National Army Museum, Bridge to Nowhere, the Whanganui River, Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail and the Timber Trail.

Indigenous background

The original inhabitants of the Ruapehu District were the Māori people.

Included areas

The Ruapehu District includes the localities (Census area units) of Manunui, National Park, Ngapuke, Ohakune, Ohura, Otangiwai-Heao, Owhango, Raetihi, Raurimu, Sunshine-Hospital Hill, Tangiwai, Tarrangower, Taumarunui Central and Waiouru.