The Rangitaiki River has its source on the northeastern slopes of the Ahimanawa Range. It flows north-north-west for 15 miles, crossing the Taupo-Napier Highway at Rangitaiki, then north-east for 40 miles to Waiohau, and then generally north for 25 miles to the Bay of Plenty at Thornton. It flows along a series of fault-angle valleys which separate the Kaingaroa Plateau on the west from the North Island axial ranges on the east. Important tributaries are the Otamatea, Wheao, and Whirinaki Rivers, and on it lie the towns of Murupara, Te Teko, and Edgecumbe.
Between the plains of upper Rangitaiki, Galatea, Waiohau, and lower Rangitaiki, the river flows through narrow gorges. In the lowest gorge the Matahina Hydro-electric Dam is being constructed at Te Mahoe. The mean flow here is 2,500 cusecs and the station will generate 70,000 kW. Another hydroelectric station is planned for the Kopuriki Gorge. The total catchment area is 1,100 sq. miles.
The meaning and origin of the name are obscure.
by James Healy, M.SC., Volcanologist, New Zealand Geological Survey, Rotorua.