Otorohanga is situated in a bend of the Waipa in the upper basin of that river. The land immediately surrounding the town contains much limestone and is flat to undulating. The North Island Main Trunk railway and the direct Auckland-Wellington highway pass through Otorohanga. By road Otorohanga is 12 miles north of Te Kuiti, 14 miles south of Te Awamutu, and 37 miles south of Hamilton, the nearest city.
Otorohanga is a servicing and community centre for a predominantly dairy-farming district. There is some sawmilling close to the town and there is a butter factory just outside the borough boundary. The industrial activities of the town include light engineering, the manufacture of concrete products, joinery and furniture, and the production of sawn and dressed timber. There is a lime works in the town and a boiling-down works which produces fertiliser, tallow, and other by-products.
The town site in 1822 was the scene of an attack on local Maoris by raiding North Auckland tribesmen, who had recently acquired flintlock muskets. A kahikatea tree in Pine Street stands as a memorial to this encounter. The present town originated as a permanent camp for construction workers engaged in the extension southward of the North Island Main Trunk railway. In the late 1880s, after the discovery of Waitomo Caves by Fred Mace and Tane Tinorau, Otorohanga became the base for the first tourists visiting the caves, 10 miles south-west. The town has been subject to serious flooding which has made necessary the development of a large protection scheme involving diversion cuts and stop-banking. Otorohanga was constituted a town district in 1924, and became a borough on 1 October 1952.
The meaning of the name is obscure.
POPULATION: 1951 census, 1,569; 1956 census, 1,917; 1961 census, 1,997.
by Brian Newton Davis, M.A., Vicar, St. Philips, Karori West, Wellington and Edward Stewart Dollimore, Research Officer, Department of Lands and Survey, Wellington.