Story: Hawke’s Bay places

Page 6. Waipukurau

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Largest town in Central Hawke’s Bay, 49 km south-west of Hastings, with a 2013 population of 3,741. Waipukurau is named after a Māori which was located nearby.


The town of Waipukurau was founded by pastoral runholder Henry Russell as a model village in the 1860s. He envisaged a town containing a few well-to-do families, a group of tradesmen and artisans, and a parson. Russell retained ownership of the town sections, which he leased to residents (they were later made freehold). Residents were carefully selected and Russell approved plans before houses were built. He built community facilities, commercial buildings and small workers’ cottages.

Growth of the town was restricted because it was surrounded by large pastoral stations. Most were broken up into smaller blocks by the Liberal government from the 1890s, which allowed the town to develop and business numbers to grow. A freezing works opened in 1889, and other industries such as flax processing and sawmilling followed. The Waipukurau saleyard serviced most of Central Hawke’s Bay by the 1920s.

Hawke’s Bay hospitality

Henry Russell built a homestead in Central Hawke’s Bay in 1853. At the time it was the only house in the district, and he and his wife often had to accommodate travellers who found themselves stranded when darkness fell. To spare his wife from hosting duties and avoid expenses associated with unexpected guests, Russell built an accommodation house called the Tavistock on the site of present-day Waipukurau, and employed a manager.

Waipukurau thrived during the post-Second World War agricultural boom. Car yards opened in the town to meet demand from wealthy farmers. By 1951 Waipukurau had six banks. With the decline of farming profits from the 1970s businesses such as stock firms merged, and banks and transport companies closed. In the 2000s Waipukurau was still supported by farming and related industries. The Bernard Matthews meat-processing plant (built in 1984) was the town’s biggest single employer.


In 2013 people in Waipukurau had, on average, lower qualifications than the national average. Median income was also lower. The town had a relatively high population of people aged 65 and over – farmers from surrounding rural districts often retire there.


Settlement south of Waipukurau and home of the Hatuma Lime Company (founded in 1932). Hātuma Lake was valued by Māori for its eels.


Some of Hawke’s Bay’s best-known surviving historic homesteads are located near Waipukurau, including:

  • Wallingford, built by leading politician and runholder John Davies Ormond in 1853. A township (which has since disappeared) grew up around the property.
  • Oruawharo, near Takapau, built by Sydney Johnston in 1879
  • Mount Vernon, near Waipukurau, built by John Harding in 1882
  • Woburn in Waipukurau, built by Henry Montgomery in 1893.

The historic Wanstead Hotel is located on Pōrangahau Road between Waipukurau and Wallingford.


Rural township off State Highway 2, with a 2013 population of 522. Takapau was founded by pastoral runholder Sydney Johnston of Oruawharo station in 1876. The Johnston family donated land for churches and a school, and built community facilities such as a library, public hall and, later, Plunket rooms. Takapau’s streets are named after family members.

The township’s major business is the Silver Fern Farms meat-processing plant, opened by the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Meat Company in 1981. Another important business is Kintail Honey, one of New Zealand’s largest beekeeping and honey-packing operations.

Tukituki River

Major river in Central Hawke’s Bay. The Tukituki River runs east from the Ruahine Range and joins other waterways above Waipukurau. It drains into Hawke Bay at Haumoana.

How to cite this page:

Kerryn Pollock, 'Hawke’s Bay places - Waipukurau', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 18 July 2024)

Story by Kerryn Pollock, published 13 Aug 2009, updated 30 Nov 2015