Story: East Coast region

Page 12. Sport and recreation

All images & media in this story


Rugby in the region started with a competition with neighbouring Hawke’s Bay. The Poverty Bay union was established in 1890 and the East Coast union in 1921. Among the region’s All Blacks have been George Nēpia, Richard ‘Tiny’ White, Ian Kirkpatrick and the Gear brothers – Rico and Hosea. Ian Kirkpatrick played 39 tests for the All Blacks in the 1960s, nine of them as captain.

Beginning of the civil war 

On 22 July 1981 the first match of the controversial rugby tour by the South African Springbok rugby team was played in Gisborne. It was also the first time hundreds of tour opponents, protesting against the South African apartheid regime, clashed with police and tour supporters. Most were unprepared for how violent the clashes would become during rest of the tour. 

Gisborne City was one of the country’s leading football teams in the late twentieth century. In 1984 it won the national league and three years later the Chatham Cup, the country’s premier knockout tournament.

The region boasts a past coach (Leigh Gibbs) and captain (Sandra Edge) of the national netball side.

Joe Hogan won British and world croquet championships between 1986 and 1990. Tom Heeney was the first New Zealand-born boxer to fight for the world heavyweight championship, in New York in 1928.

Water sports

Gisborne is famous for its surfing beaches, with Makorori Point being especially known for its great surfing breaks. Some of New Zealand’s top professional surfers, including Maz Quinn, Jay Quinn and Bobby Hansen, call Gisborne home.

Surf lifesaving is also big in the region, with clubs at Waikanae, Midway and Tolaga Bay. Local surf lifesaver Cory Hutchings won the World Ironman Championship three times.

Kayakers Alan Thompson (two) and Grant Bramwell won gold medals at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984.

Outdoor recreation

The region’s temperate climate, clean lakes, forests, streams and beaches attract tourists. Tramping, hunting, white-water rafting, canoeing, fishing, surfing, golf, yachting and all types of wilderness activities are catered for.

Recreation and tourism industries, based mainly on the attractions of the coast and coastal marine area, are popular and have steadily become a more significant component of the coastal settlements.

In 2011 the Gisborne District Council maintained a number of walkways, mountain-biking and fitness trails. Tītīrangi Domain (Kaiti Hill), once a , provided great views of Gisborne city and across the bay towards Māhia. There were bush tracks amongst its native trees and a very popular fitness trail.

The walkway along the Taruheru and Tūranganui riverbank, which included heritage signs, allowed an appreciation of the history of the city. It connected with a walkway and cycleway to Waikanae Creek.

Department of Conservation walks and tracks included Gray's Bush Scenic Reserve, Te Kurī Farm Walkway, Ōtoko Walkway, Okitu Scenic Reserve, Cooks Cove Walkway in Tolaga Bay, Anaura Bay Walkway, and Mount Hikurangi – Te Ara ki Hikurangi.


The first Rhythm and Vines music festival was held at Waiohika, near Gisborne, in 2003. The event, held over three days at New Year, attracts audiences of up to 25,000 – more than half the population of the district.

How to cite this page:

Monty Soutar, 'East Coast region - Sport and recreation', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 July 2024)

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