In the 1918 electoral redistribution, the North Island gained a further three electorates from the South Island due to faster population growth. Only two existing electorates were unaltered, five electorates were abolished, two former electorate were re-established, and three electorates, including Rotorua, were created for the first time.
The original electorate, which was formed through the 1918 electoral redistribution, had a long coastline along the Bay of Plenty, and incorporated, beside Rotorua, the towns and villages of Whakatane, Taupo, Tokoroa, Putaruru, Mangakino, Edgecumbe, Taneatua, and Murupara. In the 1922 electoral redistribution, the electorate lost some area to the Bay of Plenty electorate, and a larger area to the Waikato electorate. The 1927 electoral redistribution saw Rotorua become landlocked, with the Tauranga electorate taking the coastline including Taneatua and Edgecumbe, and Whakatane going to the Bay of Plenty electorate. The electorate moved south and took in Lake Taupo, with Turangi just beyond the southern boundary located in the Waimarino electorate. The electorate also grew in the north-west, gaining the town of Matamata.
In the 1937 electoral redistribution, the electorate shifted further south again. Matamata was lost again, and the peaks of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu now formed the boundary to the Waimarino electorate. The 1946 electoral redistribution saw the Rotorua electorate abolished, with the Bay of Plenty electorate moving west and incorporating the town of Rotorua, most of the southern area going to the Waimarino electorate including the town of Taupo, and some area in the north-west going to the Waikato electorate including Tokoroa.
The First Labour Government was defeated in the 1949 election and the incoming National Government changed the Electoral Act, with the electoral quota once again based on total population as opposed to qualified electors, and the tolerance was increased to 7.5% of the electoral quota. There was no adjustments in the number of electorates between the South and North Islands, but the law changes resulted in boundary adjustments to almost every electorate through the 1952 electoral redistribution; only five electorates were unaltered. Five electorates were reconstituted (including Rotorua) and one was newly created, and a corresponding six electorates were abolished; all of these in the North Island. These changes took effect with the 1954 election. The electorate was again landlocked and much smaller than prior to its abolition. Significant settlements included Rotorua, Tokoroa, Taupo, and Mangakino, with Lake Taupo forming the southern boundary.
Over forty per cent of the population of Rotorua is under the age of thirty, much of this because 37% of the electorate's residents are Māori, who are on the whole younger than the national average (22.7 years old versus a national average of 35.9). There are also fewer voters earning over $30,000 per year, with the majority of workers coming from working class and semi-skilled professionals. Rotorua also has more unemployed people (6.5%) than most electorates, being ranked 52nd in the nation.
The country quota applied until 1945 and the Rotorua electorate was initially classed as fully rural. Based on the 1926 census, the 1927 Electoral Redistribution determined that 24% of the electorate's population was urban. Based on the 1936 census, the 1937 Electoral Redistribution determined that 36% of the electorate's population was urban.
The current Rotorua electorate is positioned in the Bay of Plenty region in the central North Island. It is dominated by the town of Rotorua, and also contains the Eastern Bay of Plenty towns of Kawerau, Murupara and Galatea, the last two of which are located on the outskirts of Te Urewera National Park. In 2008, its boundaries were extended to the geographical bay, with the addition of coastline stretching from a cluster of rural towns including Pukehina and Maketu to the outskirts of Te Puke.
An electorate based around Rotorua has been a part of the New Zealand electoral landscape since the 1919 election, with a gap from 1946 to 1954. Previously the town of Rotorua was in the East Coast electorate (from 1871), then the East Coast electorate again (from 1890), then the Bay of Plenty electorate (from 1893), and then (just) in the Tauranga electorate again (from 1911 to 1919).
William Henry Wackrow was nominated in March 1922 as the opposition candidate for that year's election. Wackrow withdrew in November and was replaced by Cecil Clinkard, who lost against the incumbent, Frank Hockly of the Reform Party.
Geoffrey Sim of the National Party won the 1943 election. When the Rotorua electorate was abolished for the 1946 election, Sim successfully stood in Waikato electorate instead.
After the electorate was re-established through the 1952 Electoral Redistribution, Ray Boord of the Labour Party won the 1954 election. Boord served two parliamentary terms and was beaten by National's Harry Lapwood in the 1960 election. Lapwood served for six parliamentary terms and retired in 1978.
Lapwood was succeeded by his party colleague Paul East in the 1978 election. East also served six parliamentary terms until 1996. With the advent of Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting in 1996, the Rotorua electorate was greatly expanded to include areas previously part of the Eastern Bay of Plenty and Tarawera electorates. Both Tarawera and Rotorua were safe National Party electorates, and in the ensuing battle for the nomination, the two incumbents, East and Max Bradford, faced off for a Rotorua nomination eventually secured by Bradford, with East securing a high list position.
Bradford won the 1996 election with a nearly 6,000 votes margin. Despite both electorates being reasonably loyal to the National Party, Bradford's tenure as MP for Rotorua was just three years, before being ousted by Labour MP Steve Chadwick in the 1999 election. Chadwick's initial majority of 4,978 votes blew out to over 7,500 in 2002 before it was reined in to just 662 in 2005, as the National Party consolidated the centre-right vote, with its biggest gains being in the provincial North Island. In 2005, Chadwick's party was less popular than their candidate, coming 1,645 votes behind National.
In 2008 Chadwick was defeated by National candidate Todd McClay who won the electorate with a majority of 5,067 votes. In the 2011 election McClay again returned as the member for Rotorua, increasing his majority to 7,357 votes. In 2014, McClay was elected as MP for a third term beating television personality Tamati Coffey by a similar majority to that in the previous election.
Rotorua is also an electorate where the New Zealand First party does well, with its biggest appeal among provincial New Zealanders, and as results in 1996 indicate, Māori: in the three most recent elections, New Zealand First has polled around three per cent higher in Rotorua than it did in the rest of New Zealand.
Unless otherwise stated, all MPs terms began and ended at general elections.
Reform United Labour National
Members of Parliament elected from party lists in elections where that person also unsuccessfully contested the Rotorua electorate. Unless otherwise stated, all MPs terms began and ended at general elections.
Electorate (as at 26 November 2011): 42,886