1800s - 1900s
In 1896, (after 40 years of resistance) the Crown acquired the Wairarapa Lakes from Ngati Kahungunu and in 1915, gave in return, land in middle North Island, land known as part of the Pouakani Block. At that time the land where Mangakino lies today was described as native bush and pumice wastelands, barren, unoccupied and unfarmed.
1940s - 1970s
In 1946, as the Karapiro Dam neared completion, workers were to transfer to the next dam construction site – Maraetai I, near Mangakino. The Crown, under the Public Works Act, reacquired a portion of the unoccupied Pouakani Block alongside the Waikato River to build a “hydroelectric station,” and a temporary township, Mangakino, was established to house the hundreds of construction workers needed. The town was only ever meant to be there on a temporary basis until the completion of the proposed dams. Consecutively in the 1940s, 50s and 60s Maraetai I, Whakamaru, Waipapa, Atiamuri & Maraetai II were all built by a workforce based in Mangakino. Small villages were also built at Maraetai, Waipapa, Whakamaru and Atiamuri to house the permanent workforce who were to run the power stations.
With the advancement of computer technology only a small number of permanent staff are now needed and are employed by Mighty River Power the current Dam owners. Waipapa and Maraetai villages were disbanded, the houses removed, the land converted back into forestry and farmland, the old crumbling roads remain a tell-tale sign of their former existence. Whakamaru and Atiamuri Villages remain close-knit little communities set in picturesque surroundings; their handy proximity to the larger urban centres makes them popular for both permanent residents and holidaymakers as satellite villages.
In September 1946 the Mangakino Primary School consisted of a large hut containing one teacher and 13 pupils, “post-primary” students travelled daily to school in Putaruru. A Mangakino District High School was built in 1948 and by 1954 held the record for the largest student population in New Zealand . In its heyday Mangakino boasted extensive municipal facilities including; a cinema, billards room, library, concert hall, gymnasium, bowling club, rugby club and extensive sports fields, some of which still exist today.
Mangakino’s population in 1960 was quoted at 5,588 residents, but by early 1963 it dropped dramatically following the completion of Maraetai II, falling to 2,348. Today, (in 2005) the population has stabilised at around 1,250 people.
Following the progressive completion of the dams, homes were moved off the land and southern streets were converted back into farmland. The town itself was shrinking significantly but people were still keen to remain living there. Subsequently in 1957 the Mangakino Township Incorporation was formed to deal with land matters, and later administrate leases for the sections. By 1961 the number of houses in Mangakino had been reduced from 1,100 to 600. By 1970 the Ministry of Works had completely withdrawn, and Mangakino was locally governed by the Taupo County Council (now called the Taupo District Council).
In 11 July 1994 the Mangakino Primary School and High Schools amalgamated to become the Mangakino Area School and reside on the old high school grounds. Country schools at Whakamaru, Marotiri and Tirohanga are all in close proximity to Mangakino and engage in “Pinelands” interschool sports days and festivals. Mangakino has numerous preschool facilities. The Mangakino Kohanga Reo based at Pouakani Marae, RangiAmokura Kohanga Reo based at the old Primary School, Playcentres in Mangakino & Whakamaru, and a Playgroup based at the Area School funded by the Central Plateau Rural Education Activities Program (REAP).
The Pouakani Marae located on Lake Road , Mangakino, was established in the old cookhouse and dining hall formally used by the Ministry of Works Mens Camp (purchased by the Mangakino Incorporation to become the local Marae). The Marae is of Ngati Kahungunu kawa/protocol but is a multicultural Marae. This reflects the diverse Maori affiliation of residents and great acceptance of other cultural backgrounds. In 2004 the kitchen upgrades were completed with a $30,000 funding grant from the Mangakino Stronger Communities Action Fund (SCAF). Carvings honouring Tamatea Pokai Whenua of the Takitimu canoe are among those that adorn the Marae.
2000 - Today
In 2001, the Mangakino Township Incorporation obtained approval through the Maori Land Court to legally change the title of the majority of residential sections in Mangakino from Maori land to General title. They then put Mangakino’s 500+ leasehold sections on the market as a single purchase. In July 2002, the majority of the town’s sections were sold to MV Properties of Pukekohe. A stipulation of the tender was that residents would be given the first opportunity to purchase their perpetually-leased sections. The land valuations that had been exceedingly low for decades, then skyrocketed. Some locals chose to freehold their homes immediately, empty sections without current leases were sold on the open market. Many residents continue to remain perpetual leaseholders.
Freehold property prices in Mangakino have reached all time highs especially those with prized lake views. Sections once valued at $5–10,000 can sell for upwards of $200,000. Many houses have been purchased as holiday homes for those seeking a peaceful country holiday.