Paeroa is situated on undulating country on the northern bank of the Ohinemuri River near its junction with the Waihou River. The Coromandel Range lies immediately to the east and the extensive Hauraki Plain to the west. The town is a road and rail junction where rail routes from Hamilton, Thames, and Tauranga, and four State highways converge. By road Paeroa is 20 miles south of Thames, 13 miles north of Te Aroha, and 83 miles south-east of Auckland.
Paeroa is primarily a farm servicing centre for a closely settled dairying district. Important industries in the town include the manufacture of butter, dried milk and casein, clothing, concrete products, light engineering, and radio assembly. A boiling-down works produces mainly tallow and organic fertiliser. An unusual local activity is the commercial bottling of “Paeroa water” obtained from a warm mineral spring near the town.
There was an early Maori settlement near the present site of the town. Paeroa came into existence as a river port on the Waihou-Ohinemuri river system after the opening of the Ohinemuri gold-field (5 miles south-east). By 1881 a regular passenger and cargo steamship service had been established between Auckland and Paeroa and the importance of the port increased. A shipping service continued until 1947 when it became uneconomic. Gold was discovered at Komata Reefs, 6 miles north-east of Paeroa, in 1891. The initial yields were heavy but by 1901 production had declined considerably; nevertheless, mining continued intermittently with limited success until the early 1930s when all payable gold ore was exhausted. At an early date, flax from the extensive swamp land west of Paeroa was milled in the town. Much of this land has since been reclaimed for dairy farming. Paeroa means “a long low ridge of hills”, apparently a description of the Coromandel Range. At first Paeroa was part of the Thames County. In 1885 it became the Paeroa riding of the Ohinemuri County and on 1 April 1915 was created a borough.
POPULATION: 1951 census, 2,667; 1956 census, 2,856; 1961 census, 3,058.
by Brian Newton Davis, M.A., Vicar, St. Philips, Karori West, Wellington and Edward Stewart Dollimore, Research Officer, Department of Lands and Survey, Wellington.