Story: Bay of Plenty places

Page 9. Towns of the Rangitāiki Plains

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Matatā

Coastal settlement at the western edge of the Rangitāiki Plains. The location is 23 km north-west of Whakatāne and 65 km south-east of Tauranga on State Highway 2. The highway west of the town traverses a land platform marking a northern limit to the Volcanic Plateau. This platform is bounded by Kōhī-o-awa Beach on the seaward side and pōhutukawa-clad cliffs on the landward side. It is also known as Te Kaokaoroa (the long rib).

In 2013 the population was 645.

Initially a Māori settlement, Matatā was a centre of trading activity and shipbuilding in the 1840s and 1850s. It was the site of a battle – usually called Kaokaoroa – where combined Te Arawa and British forces challenged war parties from the East Coast journeying to support Waikato tribes in 1864.

A township, briefly named Richmond, was surveyed in 1868, a native school was opened in 1872, and a Catholic mission was established in 1886.

As well as the long-established commerce, there were local flax mills. But the drainage of the Rangitāiki Plains brought many changes – flax cultivation ended, the Tarawera River was diverted in 1917 and Matatā lost its port.

Edgecumbe

Principal town of the Rangitāiki Plains, 19 km west of Whakatāne. First known as Rangitāiki or Riverslea, it developed near the site of a rail bridge – later a combined rail and road bridge, completed in 1920.

Its position at an important transport hub was enhanced when the Rangitāiki Plains Dairy Company opened a factory there in 1923. In 1924 the town was named Edgecumbe after the nearby mountain (originally known as Pūtauaki). The 2013 population was 1,638. 62.8% claimed European ethnicity and 43.4% Māori.

1987 earthquake

Edgecumbe was the nearest centre to the magnitude 6.3 earthquake of 1987. There was no loss of human life, but at the Bay Milk Products factory pipes and silos collapsed, spilling millions of litres of milk and two milk tankers were thrown on their sides. Displayed at the front of the factory, now owned and operated by Fonterra, is a massive girder deformed at the time of the earthquake.

Te Teko

Township located 8 km south-west of Edgecumbe on State Highway 30. Te Teko’s 19th-century history is linked to the ancestor Te Rangitūkehu Hātua, of the Te Pahipoto section of Ngāti Awa. He provided strong leadership during the wars of the 1860s and their turbulent aftermath. A school was opened in 1881.

The 2013 population was 489. Te Teko is one of the poorer Bay of Plenty townships. 25.8% of the population are under 15 (compared with 21.1% for the region), and 85.2% have Māori ethnicity. The unemployment rate in 2013 was 31.9% (compared with 8.6% for the region).

How to cite this page:

Malcolm McKinnon, 'Bay of Plenty places - Towns of the Rangitāiki Plains', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/bay-of-plenty-places/page-9 (accessed 13 December 2019)

Story by Malcolm McKinnon, published 5 Dec 2005, updated 1 Jul 2015