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Raetihi

Raetihi is a town in the central North Island of New Zealand. It is located at the junction of State Highways 4 and 49, 11 kilometres west of Ohakune. The 2013 New Zealand census recorded its population as 1,002. This constitutes a decrease of 3.2% or 33 people since the 2006 census. 65.3% of residents identified as Māori, 55% European, 2.7% Pacific and 1.2% Asian (some people identified themselves in several ethnic groups and as a result percentages do not add up to 100). The Waimarino district stretches from Mount Ruapehu to the Wanganui River encompassing Raetihi, Pipiriki, Karioi, Horopito, Waiouru, Rangataua and Ohakune. There is evidence of Maori people living here in the fourteenth century. The Ngati Uenuku dwelled at Raetihi and Waimarino (now National Park). There is little evidence of large permanent settlements but hunting parties were common during warmer months.In 1887 the Government purchased the Waimarino block from the Maori. The first European settlement was at Karioi where sheep were grazed on open tussock land.The Waimarino block proved to be a “pot of gold”. Between 1908 and 1947 it provided 700 million superficial feet of building timber. The remnants of 150 sawmills have been discovered. Now there are only two major mills operating permanently. One at Tangiwai & one at National Park. In its heyday the sawmilling of rimu, totara, kahikatea, matai and beech trees provided employment for numerous people in the area.Raetihi (originally called Makotuku due to the river flowing at the towns edge) became the focal point for travellers going between Wanganui and Waiouru. A thriving town emerged to serve the timber workers and those passing through. A trip North from Wanganui was not for the faint-hearted. The scenic “River Road” passing through Pipiriki was treacherous with primitive tracks and long falls if you left the track. Those who completed the journey to Raetihi found hospitality, accommodation, blacksmiths and saddlers for weary horses and supplies for their further travels north.
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