The city of Rotorua has a rich history of exploration and settlement initially by the Te Arawa Māori, geothermal activity surrounded by plentiful lakes and native forests abundant with food sources. In time and after periods of warfare, the tourism industry rapidly developed with the attraction of the Pink and White Terraces and the added curiosity of Māori culture on display - creating a partnership of kind between the Māori and new European settlers who all benefited.
The “birth” of the township of Rotorua began with the introduction of The Fenton Agreement when 295 members of Ngati Whakaue signed a contract with The Crown to lease land and move the township from Ohinemutu to where the city centre is currently.
The rapid growth of the township continued despite the catastrophic eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886 resulting in 120 deaths and the destruction of the area’s most famous and popular landmarks, The Pink and White Terraces.
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Rotorua was established as a borough in 1922, elected its first mayor, Cecil H. Clinkard in 1923, and declared a city in 1962 before becoming a district in 1979.
Books on Rotorua history that are available for loan can be found in the NZ History/Travel collection and the Māori Non-Fiction collection on Papatahi, the first floor of the library under the Dewey decimal number 993.423.
Rotorua History Resources in the Don Stafford Room
All resources in the Don Stafford Room on Paparua, the second floor are for reference use only.
- The Rotorua and Te Arawa Heritage collections include a reference copy of items published in or about Rotorua
- Don Stafford Files - research notes compiled by historian Don Stafford while writing his books on Rotorua history. His files include extensive indexes, newspaper clippings, references and transcripts. Library staff can help you to use these files.
- Maps – Historical, topographical, bathymetric and forestry maps relating to Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty
- Local newspapers
- Indexes - Library staff have developed indexes to help you to find information about Rotorua's past. Ask at the Desk
- Reports and theses
- Newsletters and yearbooks from local clubs, schools and organisations.
- Publications such as Rotorua PhotoNews. The Library holds an almost complete set from the 1960s
- Some archives containing records of local clubs and organisations
Find the latest additions to the Heritage & Research collections.