Gisborne History

1300s Landing of waka Horouta from Hawaiki

1769 Captain James Cook landed at Gisborne

1831 Captain John Harris set up first trading station on bank of Turanganui River

1840 Missionaries arrived. 47 East Coast chiefs sign Treaty of Waitangi

1852 Arrival of Captain George Edward Read

1857 Crown purchased first land at Makaraka

1865 East Coast War & Te Kooti Revolt

1871 Turanga renamed Gisborne

1872 First public school opened & first newspaper published

1876 Gladstone Road formed with pavements and kerbing

1877 Gisborne became a borough

1890–1920 Meat & Wool Boom

1905 Edwardian Era begins

1912 Opera House opens

1914–1918 World War 1

1929 Tolaga Bay Wharf opened

1930 Te Poho o Rawiri Marae opens

1931–1932 February, May and September 32 earthquakes

1934 Clock Tower completed

1939–1945 World War 2

1952 J Wattie Cannery established

1953–1973 Waipaoa Flood Control Scheme

1955 Gisborne claimed city status

1966 Earthquake, magnitude 6

1967 H B Williams Memorial Library opened

1969 Land returned to public, named Endeavour Park

1970 59 sperm whales stranded at Wainui Beach

1988 Cyclone Bola

1990 Endeavour Park reclaimed original name of Heipipi

2000 Millennium celebrations

2007 Earthquake 6.8

2009 Dolphin Moko at Gisborne, after two and a half years at Mahia

2020 and beyond

Gisborne has a depth of history that spans many generations and its tribal history is very complex. Each of the major tribal groupings were divided into many sub-groups or hapu and linked by a maze of intermarriages.

At the mouth of the Turanganui River, it was here that great ocean-going navigator Kiwa landed after voyaging to the district aboard the waka, Horouta from Hawaiki. From the 14th century, the Maori tribes built fishing villages close to the sea and built pa on nearby hilltops. The various pa on top of Titirangi (called Kaiti Hill) served as a sanctuary for numerous ancestors over the generations.

It was also at the mouth of this river that Captain James Cook made his first New Zealand landfall in October 1769. He went on to call the region Poverty Bay, because it afforded Cook and the crew “no one thing we wanted”.

Cooks landing was marred by misunderstanding and the resultant death and wounding of nine Maori within four days. However historians say there is no other single site of such significance in the history of New Zealand.

It was on the banks of the Turanganui River that first the township of Turanga, then the city of Gisborne, grew with European traders and whalers settling in the river and port area.

In May 1831, Captain John Harris, set up the first trading station on the Heipipi side of the river towards the Waikanae Stream. After a brief stay at Awapuni, near Midway Beach, Harris in June 1831 bought an acre of land on the west bank from the chiefs of Turanga, Kahutia and others for gunpowder, axe, pipes and tobacco. This was the earliest European land purchase in Poverty Bay and is commemorated in a plaque by the river. Later Harris went on to establish a whaling station alongside his store. Harris was regarded as the founder of Poverty Bay, and he married a relative of Ngati Porou leader Te Kani a Takirau.

In 1852, Captain George Edward Read, strutted into the fledgling settlement and set up a trading store, jetty and home on the other side of the Turanganui River from Harris. He continued to buy property for commercial development and established the first brewery on the corner of Disraeli Street & Gladstone Road and lent money for the first government wharf, Read’s Quay. By mid 1870’s the scene was changing, increasing development brought the need for better roads, pavements and kerbing. George Read died in 1878.

Gisborne was a town on the move when its first newspaper, the weekly Poverty Bay Standard, was launched in October 1872. In 1938 the newspaper changed its name to the Gisborne Herald and continues to publish a daily newspaper. It is one of the last privately owned and operated daily newspapers in New Zealand.

Gisborne was primarily built on the back of the meat and wool industry. Much of the architectural styles in the 19th and 20th century were very much based on Britain and America.

Today tourists pour in from all over the world to see what the first city to see the sun has to offer.
 
They find miles of beautiful sandy beaches, beautiful parks and bushland, with a progressive city centre.
 Not to mention home-grown fruit of every description as well as some of the world's best beef, wines, cider, vegetables and cheese.

Today Gisborne is:

Surfing: Gisborne is a genuine laid-back surf town, with long hot summers and a range of uncrowded surf breaks for both experienced surfers and learners. There is miles of unsurpassed pristine coastline with beautiful golden East Coast sand and crystal blue waves.

Food: Relaxed café-style dining, silver service or a quick takeaway to enjoy at the beach or beside the river - Gisborne has it all. And most local restaurants feature a strong selection of local specialties, such as seafood or premium local beef, lamb and venison.

Farming: Some of the richest soil and most productive land in the country has been the foundation of the district's economic growth. Today the produce from the Poverty Bay Flats, the fruit, vegetables and many other crops are exported worldwide and our sheep and cattle are noted for the quality of production.

Forestry: An industry for the future - forestry is one of the great hopes for development in the Gisborne and East Coast area and has only begun to realise its potential.

 Latest official figures show the planted area in Gisborne and the East Coast at 157,545 hectares.

Wine: Records show the first wine to be made from local grapes went into sacramental wine made by Marist missionaries. But the true pioneer of commercial wine-making in Gisborne was Frederich Wohnsiedler, a German who set up a vineyard at Waihirere after being chased out of town during World War 1.

Agriculture: The quality of the land coupled with the growing conditions make Gisborne the ideal base for year-round production.The soil on the Poverty Bay flats is some of the most fertile in the country and region is renowned for its warm and sunny climate.


 Gisborne is one of the best producers of maize, squash, lettuces, oranges, mandarins and broccoli in the country. Grapes, sweetcorn, apples, tomatoes, persimmons and kiwifruit also grow in abundance.

Fishing: Fishing is an integral part of the local economy, contributing around $16 million annually.

 The industry is responsible for about 130 fulltime equivalent jobs, with the servicing and flow-on effects meaning a further 110 positions. The $16 million breaks down into $8 million directly, with a further $8.5 million of servicing and flow-on.

Gisborne has got it all and it is so pleasing to have you here finally to enjoy and showcase exactly that, a place we call home and are proud of.

Thanks goes to the NZ Historic Places Trust, Tairawhiti Branch for their permission to take extracts from the following publications:

"Small City, Big Heart" by Sheridan Gundry and introduction by Jeremy Salmond

"Historic Journeys, East Coast Driving Tours" by Sheridan Gundry

"The Turanganui River – A Brief History" by Michael Spedding