Pattern of Settlement
In the settlement of this country, road and railway meant much more than means of access to and through the bush. The construction work gave the pioneer settlers something to live on while they cleared their sections, and it was along the route that the first village settlement grew. The first of the Hawke's Bay bush settlers came into Norsewood in 1872. Most of them were immigrants recruited from Norway; about the same time a party of Danes was located on a more open patch of country at Dannevirke. In all, some 500 Scandinavians came in 1872 and another 280 in 1873. G. C. Petersen gives a moving account of the life and times of these pioneers who, in a short space of 20 years or so, transformed this country from forest to grassland.
Except for the progressive subdivision of the big runs in the more open country of southern Hawke's Bay, the pattern of settlement has remained much as it was in the later 1870s. Villages located on the railway seem to have made most progress. Today Woodville and Dannevirke are the largest of the provincial towns on land won from the bush; the older Waipukurau and Waipawa arose as centres of sheep-farming country.
The most spectacular episode in the economic history of Hawke's Bay has been the making of the Heretaunga Plain into its agricultural, commercial, and industrial heart, with the twin urban areas of Napier and Hastings carrying more than half the present population of the province: Napier started early as a first point of European settlement; it was not till 1873 that Francis Hicks sold the first town sections on the present site of Hastings. And it was not till 1888 that the new town took the status of a borough, with a total population of 1,504.
The bayhead plain of Hawke's Bay reaches from the mouth of the Esk River to Clifton beyond the mouth of the Tukituki. The Heretaunga Block was that part of it in the vicinity of the Ngaruroro River, originally bought from the Maori owners by a syndicate known as the Twelve Apostles, their title to it being confirmed only after long and acrimonious investigation by a commission in 1873. On higher and drier ground about the bay village settlements, such as Clive and Havelock North, had been established already, but much of the Heretaunga Block was low and swampy and subject to destructive floods. It was part of this swampy ground that Francis Hicks secured from one of the syndicate. Dividing it into town sections he gave one to the Government as a site for a railway station, and thus enticed the projected railway to come his way. This was the beginning of Hastings, first called Hicksville, and later named after Warren Hastings in keeping with other local Hawke's Bay names which were expressive of local interest in India at the time of the Mutiny. The railway duly came through from Napier to Hastings in 1874 and on to Waipawa in 1876.