Story: Hawke’s Bay region

Page 9. Government, education and health

All images & media in this story

Provincial government, 1853–1876

When New Zealand became self-governing in 1853, Hawke’s Bay became part of the newly created Wellington province. At first it shared two seats on the Provincial Council and one in the General Assembly (Parliament) with Wairarapa. Relatively little money was spent by the Provincial Council in the sparsely populated region, and discontented settlers lobbied for separation from Wellington, which occurred in 1858.

The Hawke’s Bay Provincial Council was dominated by pastoral farmers and characterised by infighting and factional rivalry during its 18-year history. Conflict often arose because of personal grievances and competition to purchase Māori land, rather than differences over government business.

During this period, road boards responsible for building and maintaining roads were also established.

Land wars

The second chair of the Hawke’s Bay County Council, shopkeeper Frederick Sutton, was notorious for the way he obtained Māori land. He gave Māori extensive credit on goods at his store, underwritten by a mortgage on their land. If they couldn’t pay, he took the land. This strategy didn’t always work. In 1874 he tried to acquire the last remaining Māori share in a block of land by moving his house onto it. Owner Karaitiana Takamoana and his followers retaliated by dismantling the house and throwing the pieces across the road onto Sutton’s property. The courts found in Takamoana‘s favour.

Local government

The provincial system was abolished in 1876, and county councils took over local governance in rural areas. Initially, three county councils were set up in the region: Wairoa, Hawke’s Bay and Waipawa. More were created in the south as the population grew. Borough, town and, later, city councils were also created. Napier became the first borough in 1874. River boards (and, later, the Hawke’s Bay Catchment Board) were responsible for flood control.

This structure remained much the same until local government was comprehensively reformed throughout the country in 1989. Four new territorial authorities – Napier City Council, Hastings District Council, Central Hawke’s Bay District Council and Wairoa District Council – and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council were created, replacing numerous small authorities and the catchment board.

Southern Hawke’s Bay came under the Tararua District Council and the Manawatū–Wanganui Regional Council (also known as Horizons Regional Council).

Parliamentary representation

For most of the 20th century and into the 21st, Napier voters returned Liberal and then Labour party candidates in general elections. Central and southern electorates favoured the National Party and its conservative predecessors. Voting patterns in the Hastings electorate (now part of Tukituki) are more varied – voters have regularly alternated between Labour and National. In the 2017 general election, Labour retained Napier while National held onto Tukituki.

The Māori electorates – Eastern Māori and, from 1996, Ikaroa–Rāwhiti and Waiariki – traditionally favoured Liberal and – after the defeat of Sir Apirana Ngata in 1943 – Labour candidates. The Labour Party won both seats in 2017.

Notable Hawke’s Bay politicians include Keith Holyoake (National), the member of Parliament for the Pahīatua electorate, which covered southern Hawke’s Bay, who was prime minister in 1957 and 1960–1972; Duncan MacIntyre (National), MP for Hastings 1960–1972 and deputy prime minister 1981–1984 (when he was MP for East Cape); and Pita Sharples, co-leader of the Māori Party 2004–2013, who grew up in Takapau.


Church missionaries set up schools for Māori and Pākehā in the early days of European settlement. Children were also taught at home by parents or tutors, and some were sent out of the region or overseas for schooling.

The first public school opened in Napier in 1855 and others followed as the population grew. Public secondary schools opened later in the 19th century.

Private schools have long been a feature of the region. The most well-known and prestigious are Woodford House and Iona College for girls (both later integrated into the state system), and Hereworth School for boys, all in Havelock North. They were founded to educate the children of wealthy runholders.

Hawke’s Bay also has Māori primary and secondary schools. The first, Te Aute College for boys, opened in 1854. Hukarere Girls’ College opened in 1875.

In 2015 the region had 136 primary and secondary schools, and 21 (mainly small) tertiary institutions. The main provider of tertiary education is the Eastern Institute of Technology in Taradale, Napier.

Health services

In the early days government provided little in the way of health services. People in need of care relied on independent doctors, and family and community support. The first public hospital opened in Napier in 1860, and this served the entire region until a second was opened in Waipukurau in 1879. Other hospitals followed, including Wairoa (1888), Dannevirke (1906) and Hastings (1928).

In the 1990s the government wanted to rationalise health services, and some hospitals, including Napier and Dannevirke, closed.

In the 2010s the region was covered by the Hawke’s Bay and MidCentral district health boards. The main hospital was located in Hastings, with district and community health centres in Wairoa, Napier, Waipukurau and Dannevirke. Organisations such as Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga in Hastings provided health and other social services to Māori.

How to cite this page:

Kerryn Pollock, 'Hawke’s Bay region - Government, education and health', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 14 June 2024)

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