Tauranga is situated in the south-east part of Tauranga Harbour on a neck about 2 miles long which trends towards the eastern entrance between the estuaries of the Kopurererua River and the Waimapu Stream. To the west the land gradually rises to the hills of the Kaimai Range. Approximately 23 miles off shore is Mayor Island and 10 miles off shore is Motiti Island. Tauranga is on the East Coast Main Trunk railway. By road it is 68 miles north-east of Hamilton via Kaimai (94 miles by rail), 54 ½ miles south-east of Paeroa (50 miles by rail), and 60 ½ miles north-west of Whakatane (54 miles from Whakatane West by rail).
The Tauranga Harbour Board controls the ports of Tauranga and Mount Maunganui, 11 miles north-east. With the development of wharf and other facilities at Mount Maunganui, it has grown rapidly to become the fourth port and second largest export port of New Zealand, handling 740,859 tons of cargo in 1962. Logs, newsprint, and pulp are exported, as well as wool, meat, and dairy products. In the import trade substantial quantities of grain, manures, and petroleum products are handled. Mount Maunganui is also a marine fisheries centre, while Mayor Island is a tourist base for big-game fishing. There is an airport 9 miles north-east.
Rural activities of the district include dairying, sheep farming, beef-cattle, pig, and poultry raising, and vegetable growing. It is one of the main citrus and subtropical fruitgrowing regions of New Zealand. Chinese gooseberries, mandarins, tree tomatoes, lemons, passionfruit, and feijoas are cultivated. The Kaingaroa State Forest (54 miles south-east) covers 350,000 acres. Pulp and paper are manufactured at Kawerau and there are logging and sawmilling plants on Matakana Island and at Murupara. Tauranga is an important port, a servicing centre, and a holiday resort. Secondary industries include clothing and dairy factories, timber mills, printing works, boatbuilding, plywood manufacture and the manufacture of pre-cut houses, general engineering, and motor-vehicle repairs. Mount Maunganui has a fertiliser works, flourmills, concrete-products works, a wool store, and a wool-scouring works. With its beach, the Mount is a popular tourist centre.
Tauranga and other places round the harbour appear to have been populous places in olden times, and when Captain Cook sailed along this coast he noted many large settlements. The earliest recorded European associations date from about 1830, when several traders set up their establishments round the shores of the harbour. In 1830 at Maketu (25 miles south-east), a trader named Tapsell caused whole villages to migrate to the swamps nearby to scrape flax for him until his premises were ransacked during the wars between the Arawa and the Ngaiterangi in 1836. Early trade was by barter and controlled by Pakeha-Maori traders supplying flax to Sydney firms as well as food to the Bay of Islands. Many Maoris were concentrating on growing commercial crops of wheat and potatoes and using the money to buy European food, drink, and clothing.
In 1864, when the Government dispatched troops to the district, the local tribes built a series of fortifications in an effort to tempt General Cameron to begin a new campaign. When these were completed, they sent Cameron an invitation to commence hostilities. As soon as it became apparent that there would be no reply to this, the impatient Kingites decided to move closer to Tauranga. Near the settlement they raised the hastily constructed works that came to be called the Gate Pa. Two battles were fought at Gate Pa and Te Ranga and 50,000 acres of land were confiscated from the Ngaiterangi. A military settlement was established and Tauranga grew up on the site.
During the seventies and eighties the Vesey Stewart Special Settlements at Katikati and Te Puke were formed and, as the native titles were established and blocks of land sold, other European settlers began taking up land on the lowlands of the Tauranga County. Tauranga came into existence as a town about 1873 on the building of the road via Rotorua to Taupo, but it declined somewhat in importance following the opening of the direct railway to Rotorua in 1894. It became a borough in 1882 and a city in 1961. The meaning of Tauranga has been variously interpreted – it may mean “landing place”, “anchorage for canoes”, or “place of the talisman”. But the name may be interpreted in many different ways.
POPULATION: 1951 census, 13,010; 1956 census, 18,724; 1961 census, 24,659.
by Susan Bailey, B.A., Research Officer, Department of Industries and Commerce, Wellington.