Let's live in... Tokoroa

TOKOROA FROM ABOVE: The town was originally developed in 1917 as a potential farming area, but its economic focus is in forestry.
TOKOROA FROM ABOVE: The town was originally developed in 1917 as a potential farming area, but its economic focus is in forestry.

Once described as "the city that almost was", Tokoroa is certainly a shadow of the bustling town it was around a decade ago, but that's the case with hundreds of New Zealand's rural towns, all smacked over by the economic downturn.

All this said, a population pushing 12,000 hardly qualifies as small in terms of NZ townships these days, and it just takes a little scratching around to see what lies below the blink-and-you'll-miss-it surface.

Why should I move there?

RUGBY ROOTS: Richard Kahui, one of Tokoroa's more attractive exports.
RUGBY ROOTS: Richard Kahui, one of Tokoroa's more attractive exports.

It hasn't been dubbed the home of affordable homes for nothing - so if you want a cheap mortgage look no further than Tokoroa.

And, just to make life even easier on the pocket you can expect a realistic rates bill too, according to the Taxpayers Union. The lobby group suggests you will be getting bargain for your buck with one of the lowest average residential rates in the country at $1661.

Also, being located in the central North Island you are only a hop, skip and a jump away from three vibrant cities, and serious investment from NZ Transport Agency is set to make trips to the likes of Auckland even quicker.

Why it's not for everyone

It's fog-bound, venturing into the supermarket in pyjamas is secretly accepted and you can't travel far on a windy day without smelling the infamous Kinleith Mill.

While locals seem ignorant of the fumes, those passing through could argue that it's more potent that the famous pong of Rotorua.

What's the transport like?

Taupo, Rotorua, and Hamilton are all less than an hour away on well-maintained roads, and Intercity buses pass by roughly five times a day.

The town itself qualifies for taxis so getting around is no issue and, if you live locally, you're only looking at a $10-$15 fare to get home from the local pub.


Two thriving high schools are located about five kilometres from one another, and with nine primary schools available, you are spoilt for choice.


Fill up on fast foods or bakery carbs because there is certainly no shortage on that front - or indulge in a "healthy choice" *ahem* with Subway.

The Warehouse caters to most retail needs, otherwise you can find gems in a few local stores including Morrisseys, and plenty of electronic goods in Noel Leemings.

"There is also a heated indoor swimming pool, a reasonably popular golf course, refurbished library and a freshly-transformed 3D cinema."

Fill your car up at any of the three petrol stations and refuel yourself at any of the three, far-too-popular pubs.

Where to eat out

No one can say it isn't a cultural town - take your pick of Italian, Indian or Chinese. And if you feel like being a touch posh you can always visit Central Wine and Cafe for a decent steak or seafood chowder.


Netball, cricket, rugby, league, polocrosse, volleyball, swimming - you name it and Tokoroa will probably have it. Famous for producing international sports stars, this is one important aspect of any community that the dwindling forest town can rightfully be proud of.

Where to buy

If you enjoy your privacy you're better suited to the north side of town - from Baird Rd and everything to the right. Avoid the likes of Kelso St and Dalmeney St.

Market values

Snatch up a standard three-bed Forrest Products home for $55,000 but be prepared to put some work into it.

In contrast, a three-bedroom high-end home on the north side with double garaging will set you back about $270,000. Good cheap rentals don't come easy. No one seems interested in living in a small, damp box for $85, most opting to fork out $250 a week for something solid, safe and with a decent-sized property.

Best buy

Mortgagee auctions are coming up with the town's best buys at the moment, selling anywhere up to 30 per cent below market value. But this four-bed, two-bath home with a cathedral-style ceiling and asking price of $325,000 is the one we've got 'favourited' in our smartphone at the moment. 

Notable Tokoroans 

Tokoroa is a breeding ground for rugby players, with Richard Kahui, Keven Mealamu, Royce Willis and Quade Cooper all boasting Tokoroa connections (Cooper lived there as a kid, leaving for Oz when he was 13). Other famous Tokoroans include novelist Stella Duffy, musician Jenny Morris and Destin Church leader Brian Tamaki (who moved there with his family in 1970). 

What the locals say

Tania Thompson: I'm born and bred here and know it's cheaper living.

Shylah Wirihana: I like how everyone knows each other and how close the community is.

Rebecca Russell: I personally like this town. It's not too big and not too small and it's got a good bunch of people in it.

Barbara Veichelis: If people are looking for cheap houses I think this is a wonderful place to buy one. It's a quiet town, no traffic lights and not far from Hamilton and Rotorua.

- Do you come from Tokoroa? Or have you lived there? What are your top tips/thoughts on life in the town?