Story: Hawke’s Bay region

Page 14. Society

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Snapshot of a region


Almost three-quarters of the population live in a very small part of the region – in two urban centres in unusually close proximity. In 2013, 80.5% of the population lived in Napier city and the Hastings district, mostly in urban areas. The rural districts were sparsely populated in comparison: Central Hawke’s Bay contained 7.9% of the population, southern Hawke’s Bay 6.7% and the Wairoa district 4.9%.


In 2013 the median yearly income of Hawke’s Bay people aged 15 and over was lower than the national median of $28,500. The central and Hastings districts had the highest median income ($26,700 and $26,500 respectively), followed by southern Hawke's Bay ($26,100), Napier city ($26,000) and Wairoa district ($22,000).

Slightly more of the regional population earned $20,000 or less per year (39.4%) than the national average (38.2%). Less than half (12.1%) the national average (26.7%) earned more than $50,000.

Ethnic identity

Though the majority (78.1%) of the population identified as European in 2013 (higher than the national figure of 74%), 24.2% identified as Māori, compared to 14.9% of New Zealanders as a whole. The Wairoa district had the third-highest percentage (62.9%) of Māori residents in the country.

Other ethnic communities were small and well below their proportion in the country. Pacific Islanders were 4.2% of the Hawke’s Bay population (New Zealand 7.4%) and Asians 3.5% (11.8%). 

Divided region

Census data showed a clear division between northern Hawke’s Bay (the Wairoa district) and the rest of the region. The population of the north is falling, unlike most of the region. In 2013 the north had the lowest proportion of people with post-school qualifications, and the highest without any formal qualifications. Income was lowest and unemployment highest. 54.8% of northern households had access to the internet, compared to nearly three-quarters of households in Napier and the Hastings district.

The north’s poor performance is due to its relative isolation, reliance on industries prone to economic restructuring such as meat processing, and a related lack of diverse employment opportunities.

Social challenges

While Hawke’s Bay has cultivated an image as ‘the bountiful bay’ – based on its agricultural and horticultural prosperity and status as a fine-food, wine and architecture destination – deep-seated social problems hinted at by census statistics exist alongside the good stories. 1

Areas of extreme social and economic deprivation are found throughout the region – mainly in the Wairoa district but also in suburban Napier (Maraenui) and Hastings (Flaxmere), the rural towns of Waipukurau and Woodville, and the coastal settlement of Pōrangahau. A 2008 study indicated that the health of the Hawke’s Bay population was very poor in many respects (mainly disease mortality rates) compared to New Zealand as a whole.

Gangs (mainly the Mongrel Mob and Black Power) have a presence in Napier, Hastings and Wairoa. Youth gangs are prevalent in Flaxmere, though most are low-key and not associated with violence or other criminal activity.

Breeding ground

The Mongrel Mob is reputed to have been founded in Hastings in the late 1960s after a group of mainly Pākehā youth facing criminal charges were described by the presiding judge as a ‘pack of mongrels’.2 The judge’s words provided the inspiration for a gang name and philosophy that would spread throughout New Zealand. As Māori moved into urban areas, some became involved in crime and gangs – and the Mongrel Mob changed from a Pākehā gang to a Māori one.

Tribal authorities

Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated was set up in 1988. It is the major Māori tribal authority for Hawke’s Bay and in the 2000s offered educational, health, social and cultural programmes, environmental advocacy and economic development initiatives. A holding company, which managed the iwi’s fisheries assets and other investments, was established in 2005.

The incorporation’s rohe (area) was divided into five taiwhenua (districts) in Hawke’s Bay and one in Wairarapa, with offices in the main centres of each district. Satellite groups for iwi members who live outside the region were found throughout the country. Non-Kahungunu Māori in the region could access the incorporation’s services.

Rangitāne o Tamaki nui a Rua incorporation also covered southern Hawke’s Bay, providing mainly social and health services.

  1. Lauren Quaintance, ‘The bountiful bay: let the good times roll.’ North and South 181 (April 2001). Back
  2. Tuhoe ‘Bruno’ Isaac, True red. Pukekohe: True Red, 2007, p. 2. Back
How to cite this page:

Kerryn Pollock, 'Hawke’s Bay region - Society', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 17 July 2024)

Story by Kerryn Pollock, published 13 Aug 2009, updated 1 Jul 2015