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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




The East Cape region derives its name from the cape at the north-eastern end of the North Island. The region is divided by the Raukumara Range and, while there are close similarities between the western and the eastern sides of the region, it is customary to include the western part with the Bay of Plenty. Hence the limits of the region are defined by the extent of the five counties: Matakaoa, Waiapu, Uawa, Waikohu, and Cook, which, together with their interior boroughs, constitute the principal basis for the collection of statistics. Gisborne (urban area population, 1961, 25,065) is the only town in the region and in 1961 it had a total population of 43,653 (1.80 per cent of the national total) of which 31.02 per cent were Maoris.

The East Cape has the reputation of including that part of New Zealand upon which Captain Cook first set foot and it was one of the regions where the impact of European civilisation was first felt with the introduction of Christianity and, later, with the settlement of Europeans (1831). But in New Zealand's history early prominence has never been a condition of ultimate importance and, in the second half of the twentieth century, the East Cape is probably the most isolated and one of the least known regions of the North Island; and though the statement must be treated with some caution, the region is socially the most problematical of all. For the area is pre-eminently a farming district, with very little industry and few alternative avenues of economic development. It has, however, a large and rapidly growing Maori population requiring in the immediate future increased opportunities for employment. The East Cape offers the social scientist a remarkable field of research; for its Maori community, having experienced the shock of a new culture, is in the process of adjusting itself to modern civilisation in a largely agricultural economy where population growth is rapid.


Samuel Harvey Franklin, B.COM.GEOG., M.A.(BIRMINGHAM), Senior Lecturer, Geography Department, Victoria University of Wellington.