Ohai township was founded in 1917 following the discovery of large amounts of high quality coal in the area. However, the early days of mining were restricted by poor roads. Coal production boomed in the area in 1925, when the Ohai Railway Board opened a new line linking Wairio to the Ohai Railway District. This line also carried workers between Wairio and Ohai on a passenger steam train called the ‘Piecart’. Mechanization of mining methods in the 1980’s brought huge changes to Ohai (and the nearby sister town of Nightcaps). Many families with generations associated in mining left the area. In Ohai today, shearing now rivals mining as the biggest industry employer in the town. Recent times have seen a number of people move into the Ohai/Nightcaps area (many of them North Islanders), attracted by the rural lifestyle and affordable housing.
Traditionally miners were given nicknames and this is still common practice today. Here you can meet local characters with names such as Jogger, Tinny, Radar and Bungy.
Ohai's rural location lends itself well to many outdoor pursuits. These include fishing and duck shooting, the close proximity of rivers and duck ponds making these popular local pursuits.