Grey District

Grey District in the West Coast Region of New Zealand is a municipality that covers Greymouth, Runanga, Blackball, Cobden and settlements along the Grey River. It has a land area of 3,516.48 square kilometres (1,357.72 sq mi). The seat of the Grey District Council, the local government authority that administers the district, is at Greymouth, where 27% of the district's population live.

Grey District
CountryNew Zealand
RegionWest Coast Regional Council
DistrictGrey District Council
  MayorTony Kokshoorn
  Total3,516.48 km2 (1,357.72 sq mi)
 (June 2018)[1]
  Density3.9/km2 (10/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+12 (NZST)
  Summer (DST)UTC+13 (NZDT)
Area code(s)03

The Grey District is on the West Coast of the South Island. It stretches from the south banks of the Punakaiki River in the north, southeast to Mt Anderson, north to The Pinacle, southeast to Craigeburn, in a southeast direction to Mt Barron, southwest to Jacksons and following the Taramakau River to the Tasman Sea.

The district is rich in history and character. Key industries are tourism, mining, agriculture, fishing, manufacturing and services industries. The main hospital for the West Coast is in Greymouth.


The district had a population of 13,221 at the 2006 census, of whom 8% are Maori. Of the total population, 3600 live in Greymouth, 1221 in Runanga, 1707 in Cobden and 330 in Blackball. With around 95% of its inhabitants being of European descent (2001 Census), the Grey District has a very homogeneous ethnic composition. Forty per cent of the population had no educational qualifications in 2001, compared with around 27% in New Zealand as a whole.[2] It now has a population of 13,750 (June 2018).[1]


There are 619 km of road in the district, of which 358 km are sealed (2000s data).[3]


The first buildings at the Grey River mouth were constructed by Ngati Wairangi Maori at Cobden. European settlement followed the discovery of coal and gold.

Greymouth, the district’s largest centre, lies beside the Tasman Sea and the Grey River. Greymouth experienced a rapid change in the cultural makeup of the region, reflecting an influx of migrants drawn to the gold rush, mining and related business opportunities.

As Greymouth developed, it became vulnerable to flooding. After two major floods in 1988, the Greymouth flood wall project was undertaken. Completed in 1990, the flood wall provides security for the town, and has allowed commerce to develop further.

A Māori settlement at Māwhera pā was long established on the south bank of the Māwheranui river. When the first European explorers, Thomas Brunner and Charles Heaphy, arrived in 1846, they stayed at the pā, and were given food. Two years later Brunner travelled up the river, which he renamed after Governor George Grey.

James Mackay negotiated with local Māori chiefs for purchase of the West Coast region by the government, and the agreement was signed at Māwhera pā on 21 May 1860. One of the few Māori reserves was the land around the pā, now forming the main business district in Greymouth, and most of this still remains in Māori ownership.

Further information

A range of books are available on the history of Greymouth and the Grey District. Contact the Grey District Library for further information, or check out the on-line library catalogue to see what is available. The History House Museum is an excellent source of information about the rich history of the West Coast.


  1. "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2018 (provisional)". Statistics New Zealand. 23 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018. For urban areas, "Subnational population estimates (UA, AU), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996, 2001, 2006-18 (2017 boundaries)". Statistics New Zealand. 23 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  2. District Profile (from the 'Long Term Community Outcomes Plan: 2006–2016', amended June 2007)
  3. Roading (from the 'Long Term Community Outcomes Plan: 2006–2016', amended June 2007)

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