Story: East Coast places

Page 7. Poverty Bay flats

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Outer suburban area 5 km north-west of Gisborne with a 2013 population of 1,206. Mākaraka is home to the city’s racecourse, its agricultural and pastoral showgrounds, and a motor camp. The settlement, which is bisected by the main north road into Gisborne, has a tavern, butchery, food outlets and petrol station. The Mākaraka cemetery, set aside by the government in 1872, pays homage to some of the people killed during a raid by the Māori prophet Te Kooti in 1868, as well as a number of the district’s early Pākehā settlers.

Retribution at Matawhero

Around 50–55 Māori and Europeans of all ages were killed during Te Kooti’s raid in 1868. Eight months later many of the European remains were exhumed from the scattered graves in which they had been buried and reinterred in a section of riverside land set aside as a cemetery at Mākaraka. The attack was utu (revenge), largely for Te Kooti's treatment after his arrest for alleged treachery at Waerengaahika three years earlier.


Locality 7 km west of Gisborne at the junction of State Highway 2 (which leads north to Ōpōtiki, and south to Wairoa) and State Highway 35 (into Gisborne and around the East Cape). Rich in early-European history, Matawhero is home to the oldest building in the East Coast district. Built in the 1860s as a schoolroom, it was the only structure left standing by Te Kooti and his followers when they carried out their raid in November 1868. At that time Matawhero was a small settlement of mostly Anglican pioneers. In 1872 the Presbyterian Church bought the building, which was being used to store hay. At times it has also been a hospital and storehouse.


Locality 12 km north-west of Gisborne on State Highway 2. In 1857 William Williams’ mission station at Manutuke was shifted to Waerengaahika. Two years later, when Williams became Bishop of Waiapu, the station became Williams’ diocesan headquarters. Many East Coast Māori were educated at the school during the eight years it operated.

Growing tension led Williams to transfer his headquarters to Napier in April 1865. The first followers of the Pai Mārire religion (also known as Hauhau) arrived in the district that year. Most of Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki and Rongowhakaata converted to the new faith and became open to the possibility of resisting Pākehā authority.

In mid-November 1865, 500 European and Māori troops (including Te Kooti) besieged the that the Pai Mārire had constructed near the by then abandoned mission house; 400 men and women in the pā surrendered on the sixth day.


Rongopai wharenui (meeting house), 4.5 km north of Pātūtahi, which was built in 1888 for a return visit by Te Kooti that never eventuated, is famed for its vivid interior paintings, a marked departure from the carved panels usual in meeting houses at the time.


Settlement 17 km north-west of Gisborne on State Highway 2, also reached by Back Ormond Road through Waihīrere. Originally established as a military settlement in 1870, when Te Kooti was still seen as a threat, Ormond was named after the government agent for the East Coast and later superintendent of Hawke’s Bay, John Davies Ormond. Sections were awarded by lot, beginning with 96 members of the Armed Constabulary who were stationed there.

Friedrich Wohnsiedler, a German immigrant, planted 10 acres (4 hectares) with grape vines after he was forced out of his butchery business in Gisborne by anti-German sentiment during the First World War. By the 1930s he was producing port, sherry and madeira. Wine labels from the Waihīrere and Ormond vineyards became household names among Kiwi wine drinkers in the 1950s and 1960s.

In the early 2000s Ormond had a school and tavern, and was surrounded by Poverty Bay’s main concentration of vineyards.

How to cite this page:

Monty Soutar, 'East Coast places - Poverty Bay flats', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 April 2024)

Story by Monty Soutar, published 25 Aug 2011, updated 1 Mar 2015