is situated on an undulating valley floor, bounded on the west by the Rapahoe Range and on the east by the Paparoa Range, and is 4 miles north of the Grey River. The surrounding country is undulating and hilly. The Greymouth-Westport coastal highway and the Greymouth-Rewanui branch railway pass through the town. A railway also links Runanga with Rapahoe. By road Runanga is 5 miles north-east of Greymouth (4 miles by rail) and 60 miles south-west of Westport.
The main primary industry of the district is coal mining, and the larger State mines are situated in the vicinity of Rapahoe (2 miles north-west) and Rewanui (5 miles north-east). Several cooperative parties work smaller mines elsewhere in the district, but chiefly on the western slopes of the Paparoa Range. A few dairy farms provide the town milk supply and also contribute part of Greymouth's town supply. Some flaxmilling is carried on. Runanga is essentially a miners' residential town providing shopping and commercial facilities.
It is believed that in precolonisation times the vicinity of Runanga was a camping place for Maoris from Mawhera (now Greymouth) who hunted birds on the nearby spurs of Paparoa Range. At various times during the late 1860s and the 1870s, and occasionally thereafter, the construction of a deep-water port near Point Elizabeth was advocated. The erratic and dangerous condition of the Grey River bar was the main reason for seeking an alternative port, but Greymouth and district interests opposed the proposals. The progress of the town and district dates from 1904, when local mines commenced to produce coal. A branch railway from Greymouth to Dunollie (1 mile north-east) was opened for traffic on 1 December 1904. On 21 January 1914 it was extended to Rewanui. In April 1920 the construction of a subsidiary line from Runanga to Rapahoe commenced and it was opened for traffic on 3 September 1923. Runanga came into existence in 1902 primarily as a planned residential centre. It was constituted a borough in 1912. The name means “assembly” or “meeting”. It is said that an important whare runanga (meeting house) stood there.
POPULATION: 1951 census, 1,828; 1956 census, 1,804; 1961 census, 1,734.
by Brian Newton Davis, M.A., Vicar, St. Philips, Karori West, Wellington and Edward Stewart Dollimore, Research Officer, Department of Lands and Survey, Wellington.