HAWKE'S BAY PROVINCE AND PROVINCIAL DISTRICT
Except for some shore-based whalers, only about 20 Europeans in all were living in Hawke's Bay by 1850. In 1844 William Colenso, surely the most colourful figure in the history of the province, had founded his mission station near Port Ahuriri. He introduced fruits and grains, and soon the few early traders were buying wheat and maize as well as pigs from the Maoris, about 1,100 of whom lived near the shore of the bay.
The first two blocks of land bought by the Crown (in 1851) were the Waipukurau Block of 279,000 acres and the Ahuriri Block of 265,000 acres, and by 1856 thirty sheep stations had been established, mainly within these two blocks. A few pioneer sheep men had, however, moved in before 1851 leasing land on their own account from the Maoris. Largely through the efforts of Donald McLean, 1,200,000 acres had been bought by the end of 1856, 700,000 acres of it being occupied as runs, with 1,458 acres fenced. Livestock numbers had grown to 130,000 sheep, 3,081 cattle, and 382 horses, and 900 bales of wool were exported; the European population had risen to 980, and William Colenso had some 200 trees, mainly apples and peaches, in his orchard. Te Aute College had been founded by Samuel Williams, and the first road was built to it from Napier in 1857.
It was this handful of settlers who, feeling isolated and neglected by the Wellington Provincial Council, founded a province of their own to manage their own affairs. By the time of the public meeting in Napier in February 1858, when the decision to “secede” from Wellington was taken, the total European population was estimated to have increased to 1,185. So Wellington lost about one-third of its area and nearly 1,200 of its early settlers.