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 59.2% of the district's population live.

Grey District
CountryNew Zealand
RegionWest Coast Regional Council
DistrictGrey District Council
  MayorTania Gibson
  Deputy MayorAllan Gibson
  Total3,516.48 km2 (1,357.72 sq mi)
 (June 2020)[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.


As of June 2020, 8,170 live in Greymouth and 1,210 in Runanga. The district population is 13,800[1]

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [2]

Grey District had a population of 13,344 at the 2018 New Zealand census, a decrease of 27 people (-0.2%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 123 people (0.9%) since the 2006 census. There were 5,361 households. There were 6,771 males and 6,573 females, giving a sex ratio of 1.03 males per female. The median age was 43.9 years; 2,565 people (19.2%) were aged up to 15 years, 2,244 (16.8%) were 15 to 29, 6,093 (45.7%) were 30 to 64, and 2,445 (18.3%) were 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 92.2% European/Pākehā, 10.2% Māori, 1.3% Pacific peoples, 2.9% Asian, and 2.0% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The percentage of people born overseas was 10.1%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 51.7% had no religion, 36.9% were Christian, and 3.0% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 1,137 (10.5%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 2,970 (27.6%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $27,700. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 5,295 (49.1%) people were employed full-time, 1,665 (15.4%) were part-time, and 372 (3.5%) were unemployed.[2]

Individual statistical areas in Grey district (2018 census)[3]
SA2 name Population Dwellings Median age Median income
Barrytown 939 552 48.8 years $26,500
Blaketown 810 411 42.2 years $27,000
Cobden 1,551 756 40.5 years $21,900
Dobson 828 390 44.6 years $27,800
Greymouth Central 978 468 52.7 years $23,900
Greymouth Rural 693 345 47.1 years $32,100
Karoro 1,017 459 47.1 years $37,000
King Park 1,053 558 45.1 years $24,800
Lake Brunner 1,065 546 20.4 years $25,900
Marsden 1,221 537 38.6 years $34,400
Nelson Creek 669 360 45.2 years $31,800
Runanga 1,185 612 45.2 years $24,400
Rutherglen-Camerons 1,332 567 46.5 years $37,500
Individual wards
NamePopulationHouseholdsMedian ageMedian income
Northern Ward1,59069046.7 years$25,100
Central Ward6,1502,63444.1 years$25,900
Southern Ward2,19386146.4 years$38,600
Eastern Ward3,4141,17938.2 years$26,700
New Zealand37.4 years$31,800


There are 619 km of road in the district, of which 358 km are sealed (2000s data).[4]


Greymouth floods (1988)

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. "Population estimate tables - NZ.Stat". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  2. "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. Grey District (056). 2018 Census place summary: Grey District
  3. "2018 Census place summaries | Stats NZ". Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  4. Roading Archived 4 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine (from the 'Long Term Community Outcomes Plan: 2006–2016', amended June 2007)