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New Zealand
Ms. Carol Peden

Geographical Location and Population

Rotorua is a city on the southern shores of the lake of the same name, in the Bay of Plenty region of the North Island of New Zealand. The city is the seat of the Rotorua District, a territorial authority encompassing the city and several other nearby towns. The city is in the heart of the North Island. Rotorua is a major destination for both domestic and international tourists. The city is known for its geothermal activity, and geysers and hot mud pools. Rotorua is home to the largest tertiary institute, the Waiariki Institute of Technology. Rotorua city has an estimated permanent population of 55,600, with the Rotorua district having a total estimated population of 68,200.


  • Rotorua comes from Māori, the full name being Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe; roto means lake and ruatwo - Rotorua thus meaning Second lake. Kahumatamomoe was the uncle of the Māori chief Ihenga, the ancestral explorer of the Te Arawa. It was the second major lake the chief discovered, and he dedicated it to his uncle.
  • The area was initially settled by Māori of the Te Arawa iwi. The first European in the area was probably Phillip Tapsell who was trading from the Bay of Plenty coast at Maketu from 1828. Missionaries Henry Williams and Thomas Chapman visited in 1831 and Chapman and his wife established a mission at Te Koutu in 1835. This was abandoned within a year but Chapman returned in 1838 and established a second mission at Mokoia Island.
  • The lakeshore was a prominent site of skirmishes in the 1860s. A "special town district" was created in the 1883 to promote Rotoruas potential as a spa. The town was connected to Auckland with the opening of the Rotorua Branch railway and commencement of the Rotorua Express train in 1894, resulting in the rapid growth of the town and tourism from this time forward. Rotorua was established as a borough in 1922 and declared a city in 1962 before becoming a District in 1979.

Intangible Cultural Heritage

Rotorua is the heartland of New Zealands in the field of Maori culture. Enveloping warmth, a proud spirit and a deep sense of history can be found in Maori culture. It is a sensation we call manaakitanga. The Arawa people of Rotorua were New Zealands first visitor guides. Their welcoming tradition has been carried on from generation to generation. Legends transform the handiwork of two sisters of the spirit world, carrying fire to their frozen and dying brother, into the geothermal energy that abounds in Rotorua today. The 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera, now a sleeping giant, is steeped in fascinating tales. Stories of overpowering love, of tragedy and of the mythical taniwha will enchant readers. Opportunities to face Maori culture abound in Rotorua ; in performances and in expertly conceived displays, and in encounters with the descendants of the original Te Arawa tribes who made Rotorua their home.

The Maori people were the first inhabitants of the district. Although predominantly from the Arawa tribe, other iwi (tribes) are now strongly represented in the district. The earliest Maori villages in the area were situated within close proximity to geothermal sites.Although the Maori community is now predominantly urban, there are around 35 marae (meeting grounds) in the Rotorua district, at least 20 of which are situated in rural areas. The Maori communities culture and traditions have a very significant influence in the region, and are of major interest to visitors.

Te Arawa Kapa Haka Competitions is one of the representative events in Rotorua. Kapa Haka means to stand in a row or rank (kapa) and dance (haka). Distinctive from other indigenous performing arts, Kapa Haka combines song, dance, expression and movement. It’s an art form that takes on various disciplines, as illustrated in New Zealand Post’s latest stamp issue that captures the dynamism and strong cultural tradition of Kapa Haka. Performed both ceremonially and competitively, the power of Kapa Haka to convey a range of emotions is undeniable. Every two years, the nation’s most elite Kapa Haka performers come together to compete at Te Matatini National Festival – widely regarded as the ‘premier Maori cultural performing arts festival’

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