Rangiora started  in 1852 as a sawmilling town based around timber for buildings and fuel. It would  become  the administrative and commercial centre for a large area of farms and orchards. Pre-colonial days there was an 18,000 acre swamp east and west of Rangiora. The Eyre and Cust River would form from the draining of the swamps in 1860 by Arthur Dudley Dobson as part of roads connecting Christchurch and Rangiora. It became an official borough on 14 May 1878.

The highest official temperature ever recorded in New Zealand was 42.4 °C (108.3 °F) at Rangiora on 7 February 1973.

Rangiora has attracted residents commuting to Christchurch for work, with the population more than doubling from 1971 to 2006. Although the town suffered some damage in both the Darfield 2010 and Christchurch 2011 earthquakes (the major department store Farmers was lost for a time), there was less damage than further south, which encouraged new residents. The 2013 population of 13,332 was a 12% increase on 2006. Rangiora has some historic buildings, including the Anglican Church of St John the Baptist – one of Canterbury’s largest and most beautiful wooden churches, designed by Benjamin Mountfort. Heritage buildings demolished after the earthquakes included the 1882 Masonic Lodge.  The Farmers store has been rebuilt and it’s better than ever.