We aimed to provide comprehensive estimates of laboratory-confirmed respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)-associated hospitalisations. Between 2012 and 2015, active surveillance of acute respiratory infection (ARI) hospitalisations during winter seasons was used to estimate the seasonal incidence of laboratory-confirmed RSV hospitalisations in children aged <5 years in Auckland, New Zealand (NZ). Incidence rates were estimated by fine age group, ethnicity and socio-economic status (SES) strata. Additionally, RSV disease estimates determined through active surveillance were compared to rates estimated from hospital discharge codes. There were 5309 ARI hospitalisations among children during the study period, of which 3923 (73.9%) were tested for RSV and 1597 (40.7%) were RSV-positive. The seasonal incidence of RSV-associated ARI hospitalisations, once corrected for non-testing, was 6.1 (95% confidence intervals 5.8–6.4) per 1000 children <5 years old. The highest incidence was among children aged <3 months. Being of indigenous Māori or Pacific ethnicity or living in a neighbourhood with low SES independently increased the risk of an RSV-associated hospitalisation. RSV hospital discharge codes had a sensitivity of 71% for identifying laboratory-confirmed RSV cases. RSV infection is a leading cause of hospitalisation among children in NZ, with significant disparities by ethnicity and SES. Our findings highlight the need for effective RSV vaccines and therapies.