Ohakune is situated on undulating land immediately south-west of Mount Ruapehu. The North Island Main Trunk railway passes 2 miles north-east of the town's business centre, at Ohakune Junction. From Ohakune Junction a branch goods railway line connects with Raetihi. Rochfort, on this line, is the goods railway station serving Ohakune. Raetihi is 9 miles west of Ohakune, Waiouru is 17 miles south-east by road. By rail Ohakune is 202 miles north of Wellington, and 224 miles south of Auckland.
The main farming activities of the district are sheep and cattle raising. There is some market gardening and berry fruit cultivation. Timber is milled in the 17,000-acre Karioi State Forest (8 miles south), and native timber is milled in the district, notably at Horopito (9 miles north). Ohakune is a servicing and distributing centre. Sawmilling and general engineering are the only important industrial activities in the town. It is a base for mountaineering and other outdoor activities in the south-western part of the nearby Tongariro National Park.
About the middle of the seventeenth century a Maori village located at Rangataua, 3 miles south-east, was attacked and the inhabitants were driven from their homes by Ngati Raukawa raiders. The raiders threw 75 of the slain victims into Rangatauanui, the larger of the two lakelets called Rangataua Lakes (3 miles south-west). The dozen or so survivors fled to Mangaorongo and established a pa in a clearing in dense bush on the present site of Ohakune. The road from Pipiriki to Ohakune was commenced in 1892, and by 1894 it was available for vehicle traffic throughout. By 1896 it was in good summer condition as far as Karioi. Substantial progress northwards towards Waimarino did not take place until the middle 1890s. In 1883 Rochfort commenced the first engineering reconnaissance for the Marton – Te Awamutu section of the North Island Main Trunk railway, and Ohakune became a base for his work. The town site later became a permanent camp for railway and road construction workers. By March 1908 the railway line had reached Ohakune, and on 3 August the rails were linked on Manganuioteao Viaduct (14 miles north). On 6 November the last spike was ceremoniously driven by the Prime Minister, J. G. Ward. Settlement of the town is considered to have commenced in the early 1890s. The period of railway construction activities was followed quickly by intensive timber milling. As the forest was cleared, cattle and sheep were introduced and farming progressed. Ohakune was constituted a town district in August 1908 and in November 1911 attained borough status.
The meaning of the name Ohakune is obscure
POPULATION: 1951 census, 1,621; 1956 census, 1,626; 1961 census, 1,542.
by Brian Newton Davis, M.A., Vicar, St. Philips, Karori West, Wellington and Edward Stewart Dollimore, Research Officer, Department of Lands and Survey, Wellington.