The distribution and ecology of planktonic rotifers was investigated in 33 lakes in the North Island, New Zealand, between 1997 and 1999. A total of 79 species of monogonont rotifer were identified, with an average of 21 species per lake, a diversity which is high in comparison with many previous New Zealand studies. Most species recorded were cosmopolitan taxa, and were widespread in their distribution over the North Island. Multivariate analyses (Multi-Dimensional Scaling and Canonical Correspondence Analysis) did not distinguish distinct lake groupings based on rotifer communities, but rather gradients in assemblages, which were most highly associated with lake trophic state. Based on these responses, the development of potential rotifer bioindicator schemes for lake trophic state is described and discussed.