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Hawke’s Bay places

by Kerryn Pollock

This is a comprehensive guide to the towns, coastal and inland areas, and other places of interest in Hawke’s Bay.


Napier, one of Hawke’s Bay’s two cities, had a 2013 population of 57,240. It is noted for its art deco architecture and sunshine, and is home to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.

The city runs south from Bluff Hill, a small promontory jutting into Hawke Bay, along the coast and inland towards Hastings. The central business district (CBD) is close to the Marine Parade foreshore reserve and gardens. Rebuilt in an art deco style after the 1931 earthquake, the CBD is a bustling place, with many boutique fashion stores, galleries, restaurants and bars. Napier is separated from Hastings, its neighbour and rival, by orchards and vineyards, and by Napierites’ strongly held attitudes about their identity.


Founded in 1855 by the government, Napier (formerly known as Ahuriri) is Hawke’s Bay’s oldest town. Like Hastings and Havelock North, Napier is named after a prominent figure in British India. Its earliest streets commemorate military men, scientists and writers.

The new town was in an unprepossessing location – a small semi-island between the sea and an inner harbour, which was prone to flooding. Road access to the ‘mainland’ was limited. An early account described it as ‘a hopeless spot for a town site’.1 However, it was an ideal location for a port, which was why Napier became the leading town of the region and the centre of government, business, social and leisure activities.

Earthquake testing

The 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake showed in no uncertain terms that some building materials survive earthquakes better than others. In Napier older timber buildings performed well during the quake because they were relatively flexible – although some were destroyed by the subsequent fire that ripped through the town. Most of the destroyed buildings were made of unreinforced masonry (brick or stone). Many deaths were caused by parapets and ornamentation falling from masonry buildings.

Lack of space remained a problem until 1931, when the Hawke’s Bay earthquake raised the inner harbour. Many buildings were ruined, and the central city was rebuilt in an art deco style, which – along with fine food and wine – became the focus of the city’s tourism industry from the 1980s. The port remained an important economic asset.


In 2013 fewer Napier residents had post-school qualifications and they earned slightly less than the national average. However, Napier was higher than the regional average on both those measures. Sharp contrasts within the city were evident – those living in the elevated suburbs of Bluff Hill and Hospital Hill were significantly better educated and earned substantially more than those in Maraenui, where 45.3% had no qualifications and the median income was $17,900 (compared to $28,500 nationally).


South-western suburb of Napier, and once a town in its own right. Ōtātara in Taradale was an important early site of Māori occupation. It was taken over by Ngāti Kahungunu when they settled in the district in the 16th century. William Colenso purchased land in the district in 1857 and leased the site of modern day Taradale to Henry Allen, who named it after his birthplace, Tara, in Ireland.

The township developed in a piecemeal, unplanned fashion. It was self-governing until amalgamation with Napier city in 1968. It is home to the Eastern Institute of Technology, and major vineyards are located in nearby Missionview. With a 2013 population of 10,659, Taradale is Napier’s largest suburb.


Part of the inner harbour until it was lifted above sea level by the 1931 earthquake. Its name means ‘gift from the sea’. The suburb was developed from 1934 and most of the houses were built in an art deco style. Marewa has been on the art deco tourist trail since the late 1980s. Nearby Maraenui is a state (public) housing area.


Port suburb Ahuriri was an important site of Māori occupation. The inner harbour (Te Whanganui-a-Orotū) was a valued source of food.

After Napier was founded in 1855 the inner harbour was used as a port until the sea floor was raised by the 1931 earthquake. Ahuriri also developed as an industrial zone. In the 2000s many of the warehouses were turned into cafés and bars. Large apartment buildings have been constructed on or near the waterfront.

Westshore and Bayview

Coastal suburbs north of Napier city, with a 2013 population of 2,979. The first European settlers built houses on Westshore in 1850, when it was little more than a sandspit. In the 2000s there were many motels in Westshore. Bay View, further to the north, was previously known as Pētane.

    • Quoted in M. D. N. Campbell, Story of Napier 1874–1974: footprints along the shore. Napier: Napier City Council, 1975, p. 7. Back


One of Hawke’s Bay’s two cities, with a 2013 population of 51,288 (excluding Havelock North). Hastings is the urban hub of the region’s agricultural and horticultural industries. It houses the regional hospital and the head office of the region’s main newspaper, Hawke’s Bay Today, which was formed when the daily newspapers of Napier and Hastings merged in 1999.

Located on the Heretaunga plain, Hastings is mostly laid out in a grid pattern. The city centre is arranged around a large pedestrian square, which is bisected by an unused railway line. Public parks, gardens and sports grounds are dotted around the suburbs.

Hastings is surrounded by vineyards, orchards and small farms. Its best-known business is food-processing company Wattie’s, which started in 1934.


Hastings was founded later than other Hawke’s Bay towns. Runholder and entrepreneur Thomas Tanner and his partners illegally leased land on the Heretaunga plain from Māori in 1864 and were granted an official lease in 1867. Led by Tanner, the group – informally known as the Twelve Apostles – had purchased the entire block by 1870, despite opposition to selling from some Māori and from Europeans who feared monopolies. Tanner harassed unwilling owners into selling, but when a government commission investigated the purchase it did not uphold accusations of fraud.

Hastings was laid out in 1873 – a time when roads and bridges were under construction throughout the region, wool prices were improving and a railway line was planned for 1874. It was an ideal start. Over the next few years a stockyard, showground and racecourse were built, attracting visitors and new businesses.

At first the town was supported by pastoral stations in the rural districts. Related industries such as animal-rendering and wool-scouring plants opened, followed by the first freezing works at Tōmoana in 1884. Orchards, market gardens and vineyards on surrounding land came next. The agricultural and horticultural sectors remain crucial to Hastings’ prosperity.

The population of Hastings roughly equalled that of Napier by the 1930s, and the two have remained very close in numbers ever since.

Battle of Hastings?

The Hastings Blossom Festival of 1960 became notorious after fights broke out between festivalgoers, police and firefighters. The parade had been cancelled due to wet weather. This, combined with an influx of young people, overcrowding in hotels and overbearing crowd-control tactics by the authorities created conditions ripe for a fight. One newspaper described the incident as ‘a modern battle of Hastings’1 and it was even debated in Parliament. However, only a small number of people were actively fighting. Twelve youths were charged with minor offences and no serious injuries were reported.


In 2013 residents of Hastings’ urban zone earned less and were less well-qualified than the national average, although their earnings were comparable to the regional average. Residents living in south-east areas close to Havelock North and Waiohiki, and the coastal district around Haumoana, earned much more and were more qualified than national and regional averages.


Suburb west of Hastings, with a 2013 population of 9,372. After years of planning Flaxmere was built in the early 1970s to cater for the city’s expanding population. Community facilities, recreational grounds and a shopping centre were built, and commercial and industrial sites set aside in a careful exercise of town planning. In the 1980s the city council allowed sections in Flaxmere to be subdivided. Low-quality houses on small sections were packed into the suburb – this has been blamed for Flaxmere’s ensuing problems with serious crime, social deprivation and gang activity.

Winning wines

In 2008 a wine-tasting competition between Gimblett Gravels and French Bordeaux red wines was held. The Gimblett Gravels wines retailed for about $50 per bottle, while the French ones were about $1,000 each. Experts were served the wine in a blind tasting. Gimblett Gravels came out ahead – its wines were four of the top six picks.

Gimblett Gravels

In 2001 members of the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association branded a stony-soiled area west of Hastings as Gimblett Gravels. Hard up against the deprived suburb of Flaxmere, the area contains some of the most prestigious vineyards and wineries in Hawke’s Bay. The first vineyard was planted there in the late 1970s, but it was not until the 1990s that it became popular with winemakers. The gravel soils and climatic conditions produce excellent red wines, and wineries have to meet stringent requirements to use the Gimblett Gravels brand on their wines.

    • Quoted in Roger Openshaw, ‘Hooligans at Hastings: reactions to the Hastings blossom festival affray, September 1960.’ History of Education Review 18, no. 2 (1989), p. 35. Back

East of Hastings

Havelock North

Major town south-east of Hastings, with a 2013 population of 13,071. Havelock North is the urban centre of Hawke’s Bay’s wine country. Locals call it ‘the village’.


Havelock North was founded by the government in the late 1860 to provide land for small farmers and working-class settlers. However, most sections were bought by speculators and wealthy pastoralists, which prevented small farms from developing. The township was named after British general Sir Henry Havelock to commemorate his role in suppressing a rebellion against British rule in India.

North and south

Havelock North started as plain Havelock. Another Havelock was founded in Marlborough about the same time, causing problems for the postal authorities. In 1910, the chief postmaster suggested that the Hawke’s Bay township change its name. Locals were incensed and members of the town board travelled to Wellington to protest to the minister of internal affairs in person. A name change was not enforced, but from this time ‘Havelock North’ was used informally.

Like other towns in the region, its growth was restricted by large pastoral stations on its fringes. The founding of Hastings in 1873, and the routing of the regional railway line through Hastings the following year, limited the growth of Havelock North for the next few decades.

The first orchards appeared in the 1870s, but they were not common until the early 20th century. Bernard Chambers established the first vineyard in 1892. Private schools were opened in the town to cater for the families of wealthy runholders. Subdivision of pastoral land from 1898 enabled the town to expand, and it became popular with retired people and, later, businesspeople who drove to work in Napier or Hastings. It is well known for its boutique vineyards and fine restaurants.

The Havelock Work

The Havelock Work, founded in 1907, was an arts and literary group with a keen interest in philosophical and spiritual matters. Members were prominent local people and well-educated newcomers to the area. They published a journal, held musical and dramatic events, and ran arts and crafts classes. Members were also interested in the mystical elements of Christianity. From the early 20th century the town became the centre of alternative spirituality and philosophy in New Zealand, a role for which the Havelock Work had paved the way.


In 2006 Havelock North had a significant proportion of residents (20%) aged over 65. Residents were much more educated and earned more than regional and national averages. However, residents of the council housing area around Anderson Park earned a lot less than the rest of Havelock North, and had lower qualifications. The Māori population of the Anderson Park (24%) was a big majority of the town’s Māori residents (8% overall).


Settlement between Clive and Hastings, with a 2013 population of 825. Whakatū was best known for its freezing works, which operated from 1915 to 1986.


Township between Napier and Hastings on the banks of the Clive River, with a 2013 population of 1,764. A trading post was established at Clive (then known by its Māori name Waipūreku) in 1850, and it rivalled Napier for a brief period. The development of Napier’s port and Clive’s vulnerability to floods limited its growth. Named for another famous figure in British India, Clive is predominantly residential, with rural lifestyle blocks on its fringes.

King of Haumoana

Haumoana had a king called Andy, elected by an overwhelming majority of voters in 2002 – though he was the only candidate. Andy Heyward came up with the idea as a way of promoting Haumoana: ‘Napier has its Bertie, Hastings has concrete sheep, Invercargill has Tim Shadbolt, Bluff has its paua house. I think it's time for Haumoana to have a King.’1  The monarch 'abdicated' in 2011.


Coastal township with a 2013 district population of 2,256. Haumoana was part of runholder Joseph Rhodes’ station, Clive Grange, and became a popular recreational and camping spot with Hastings residents in the 1900s. The first town sections were sold in 1907. Since the 1990s land surrounding the township has changed from sheep and cattle grazing to vineyards and lifestyle blocks.

Nearby Te Awanga and Clifton have permanent dwellings, baches (holiday homes) and vineyards. The Clifton station homestead is a local landmark. The Cape Kidnappers gannet reserve is accessed via the beach from Clifton.

Te Mata Peak

Significant peak with an altitude of 399 m. The best-known Māori legend says the peak and hills are the body of Ngāti Kahungunu ancestor Rongokako. Te Mata Peak became a public park by way of a gift from John, Bernard and Mason Chambers in 1927.

Cape Kidnappers

Significant landmark and gannet reserve at the south end of Hawke Bay. Gannets have been nesting there since the 1870s. In 2002 US billionaire Julian Robertson bought nearby Summerlee station and converted it into an exclusive golf course and resort. Three landowners established a private wildlife reserve around Cape Kidnappers in 2007, but the main reserve is managed by the Department of Conservation.

    • ‘Vote Andy for king’, (last accessed 8 May 2009). Back

Southern coast


Coastal settlement south of Cape Kidnappers. Waimārama and the surrounding district had a 2013 population of 1,083. This highlights the growing popularity of coastal properties near major centres as places to live permanently, rather than just holiday. The hills inland run sheep and beef cattle, and are dotted with exotic pine forests. The beach is popular with swimmers and surfers.

Blerta commune

Members of the eccentric 1970s travelling band Blerta (Bruno Lawrence’s Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition), including Bruno Lawrence and Geoff Murphy, owned land at Waimārama. It functioned as a commune called Snoring Waters, and was a base for the band and their families.

Kahurānaki (646 m) is the highest summit on the coastal hill country.


Many and kāinga (villages) were located on or near the coast around Waimārama, which by the beginning of the 19th century contained a relatively large Māori population. Whalers were the first European settlers. Unlike the rest of Hawke’s Bay, the area remained in Māori ownership until the early 20th century, though parts were leased to European runholders from about 1860.

Fighting for her rights

Airini Donnelly did not confine herself to conflict over land in Waimārama, and did not limit her fights to the courts. In 1889 at Ōmāhu, near Hastings, her followers ploughed contested land relating to the will of chief Rēnata Kawepō. Donnelly’s brother was shot and wounded by the supporters of her opponent, William Mātenga Broughton. Earlier that year she had been charged with forcible entry to the land, while Broughton was charged with breaking into the tent of one of her followers and ‘throwing it off the ground’.1

Waimārama became famous in the legal world for ongoing litigation from the late 19th century into the early 20th century over leasehold rights between runholders Airini Donnelly (a Ngāti Kahungunu woman of mana married to an Irish settler) and Gertrude Meinertzhagen. Donnelly won in 1908 but died the next year. Much of Waimārama was subdivided and sold into European ownership after this. The beach settlement developed from 1914.


In 2013 residents of the Waimārama district were more qualified, earned more and had a lower unemployment rate than the Hawke’s Bay averages.

Bare Island (Motu-o-Kura)

Small island off the coast of Waimārama, once part of the mainland. Bare Island was occupied by Māori, who built a pā on the summit and fished from its shores.

Ocean Beach

Small settlement and popular swimming beach between Cape Kidnappers and Waimārama. Much of the land at the southern end of Ocean Beach (also known as Waipuka) is owned by the Ngāti Mihiora hapū (subtribe). Access to the beach is via the hapū’s Pukepuke Tangiora Estate.

Other settlements

Small settlements and beach communities are dotted along the coast south of Cape Kidnappers. Pourerere was the location of the first sheep run (1849) in Hawke’s Bay and, along with Aramoana and Blackhead, was still farmed in the 2000s. Kairākau Beach and Mangakurī Beach are primarily holiday spots, though both have permanent residents. Inland farming settlements include Ōmakere and Elsthorpe.

Herbertville is the southernmost coastal settlement in the region. Nearby Cape Turnagain was so named by James Cook in 1769 because he ended his journey down the east coast there and turned back towards the north.

Te Angiangi Marine Reserve

Marine reserve established in 1997 between Blackhead and Aramoana beaches. The reserve covers 446 hectares and extends one nautical mile (1.85 kilometres) offshore from the high-water mark.


Coastal settlement with a 2013 population of 195. Pōrangahau and its river was an important site for Māori settlement. The first European runholders arrived in the early 1850s and the township was founded by the government in 1860. The settlement has a general store, historic church and cemetery, and the well-known Duke of Edinburgh hotel.

A nearby hill is christened with New Zealand’s longest place name – Taumata-whakatangihanga-kōauau-o-tamatea-turi-pūkaka-piki-maunga-horonuku-pōkai-whenua-ki-tānatahu, which means ‘the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as landeater, played his flute to his loved one’.

    • Evening Post, 4 May 1889, p. 2. Back

Southern Hawke’s Bay


Town located on the road and rail junction between Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa and Manawatū, with a 2013 population of 1,401. The timber-milling town of Woodville grew up in the 1870s, when it was known as ‘The Junction’. Its location made it seem an ideal site for a new town and it profited from an influx of road workers during this period. Dairy farms in its hinterland supported the township. The rail line from Napier reached Woodville in the 1880s, and the line from Palmerston North arrived in the 1890s. However, by this time Dannevirke was the most important town in the district and Woodville failed to capitalise on its strategic location.

Population growth was modest but steady for much of the 20th century, but the population fell during the 1990s and 2000s. Though its traditional rural hinterland remained important, in the 2000s Woodville branded itself as the windfarm capital of New Zealand, trading on the nearby Tararua wind farm. Many residents work in Palmerston North.


Largest town in southern Hawke’s Bay, with a 2013 population of 5,043. Dannevirke is 101 km south-west of Hastings and 55 km north-east of Palmerston North. It is the main service centre for the rural hinterland of the district, and the headquarters for the Tararua District Council. Its Scandinavian heritage is demonstrated in the use of Viking iconography in the town. Its name commemorates a famous fortified wall in Denmark.


The town was founded by Scandinavian immigrants, who were brought to New Zealand by the government in 1872 to fell the forest that covered much of southern Hawke’s Bay and then farm the cleared land. Ten acres (4 hectares) was set aside for the town, and each settler family got a 40-acre (16-hectare) block. Because the land around Dannevirke was not opened for settlement for a while after the town was founded, there was no farmed hinterland to support the town and it stagnated for a decade. The arrival of the railway in 1884 kick-started growth and Dannevirke pulled ahead of other small towns in the district. Surrounding land was settled and dairy farms established, which also boosted the town.

Monk business

The farming settlement of Kōpua, near Norsewood, is distinguished by the presence of a Cistercian monastery. This was founded in 1954 on land donated by local farming couple Tom and Rosalie Prescott. The monastery is home to a small community of monks and is funded by its dairy and beef farming. A retreat centre is available for use by members of the public.

Dannevirke flourished well into the 20th century on the back of farming prosperity. Like other rural centres, the town was affected by the removal of government services and farming subsidies in the 1980s and 1990s. This was reflected in a fall in population from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s. In the 2000s meat-processing plants and textile factories closed or reduced staff numbers.

In the early 2000s Dannevirke still retained important manufacturing businesses such as engineers Metalform and energy equipment suppliers RCR Energy Systems (formerly Easteel).


In 2013 Dannevirke residents earned less and had fewer formal qualifications than national averages. The town had a significant older population – 21.2% were 65 and over, compared to 14.3% nationally, as farmers from the district often retired to the town.

Norsewood nightmare

Fire was used by European settlers to clear bush for farming. It was an effective tool, but sometimes difficult to control. The lower half of Norsewood was almost completely destroyed in 1888 when a series of small fires were fanned by high winds and became one huge blaze. The fire fed on the felled trees that surrounded the town and soon moved onto the buildings – it even burned the wooden crosses marking graves in the cemetery. No lives were lost, but about 170 people were left homeless.


Small town north of Dannevirke. Norsewood is divided into upper and lower Norsewood by State Highway 2. Like Dannevirke, the town was founded by Scandinavian immigrants. A museum complex dominates the main street and some local businesses have a Scandinavian theme.

Norsewood is known for the Norsewear apparel factory, which opened in 1969. Following the sale of the Norsewear brand in 2007, the factory was purchased by the Kiwi Sock Company Ltd, which re-employed some of the Norsewear staff and continued making socks and other apparel for domestic and international markets. In 2023, a New Zealand-based family bought the Kiwi Sock Company Ltd, including the Norsewear brand. They renamed the business Norsewear NZ Ltd, and continued manufacturing Norsewear products from the Norsewood factory.

Eastern Ruahine Forest Park

A Department of Conservation park on the east side of the Ruahine Range. The park was gazetted as a conservation, recreation and watershed protection area in 1976.



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.



Oldest inland town in Hawke’s Bay, with a 2013 population of 1,965. Waipawa is the home of the Central Hawke’s Bay District Council and, like other towns in the district, is an important service centre for surrounding farms. The east side of the main street is devoid of buildings apart from the regional museum – all the colonial-era shops along it were demolished in 1986 when the council built a new (and ultimately failed) shopping mall on the west side.


Waipawa was founded on the banks of the Waipawa River by runholder Frederick Abbott in 1860. The town, originally named Abbottsford, was located next to a ford in the river. Settlers preferred its Māori name, Waipawa. Te Tapairu was established near the town in 1872.

Death of a township

A town called Hadley was planned near Waipawa in the 19th century. An early plan showed space for a mechanics’ institute and other public buildings, and a river port with ships at anchor. This ambitious plan was not realised and the town site is now occupied by Waipawa’s cemetery, which itself used to be known as Hadley.

Unlike Waipukurau, Waipawa was soon surrounded by many smaller farms that supported its growth. However, from the early 20th century its population lagged behind Waipukurau. The closure of the longstanding branch of the Williams & Kettle stock agents in 1987 was symbolic of the economic difficulties experienced by rural service centres like Waipawa in the later 20th century.


In 2006 Waipawa residents earned less than the national median income, and fewer had post-school qualifications than the national average.


Small township off State Highway 2 north of Waipawa, with a 2013 population of 537. Ōtāne was founded in 1874 on part of runholder Henry Tiffen’s 5140-hectare Homewood estate, which had been subdivided into smaller farms. A township called Kaikora emerged during the 1850s and 1860s near present-day Ōtāne, but this declined after Ōtāne became established.

A Māori pā was located at nearby Pātangata. The European settlement became the centre of Pātangata County (operational from 1885 to 1977).

Te Aute

Settlement north of Ōtāne on State Highway 2. Samuel Williams established a mission station and Māori school (the forerunner to Te Aute College) there in 1854. The school closed in 1859 due to financial difficulties but re-opened in 1872. Te Aute College has produced a number of distinguished graduates, most notably politician Apirana Ngata.

Nearby Pukehou church was consecrated in 1859 and is the oldest church in the region. The bed of Lake Poukawa contains New Zealand’s largest set of remains of extinct anatids (waterbirds like swans, ducks and geese). A battle between Ngāti Tūwharetoa and local hapū of Ngāti Kahungunu was fought on Lake Roto-a-Tara in the 1820s.


Small township on State Highway 50. Unlike most settlements in the district, Tikokino (or Hampden, as it was first called) was founded by the government, in 1860. It became a sawmilling centre and businesses served the surrounding farms once the trees were all felled and burned.

In the early 2000s most of the district’s employed residents worked at the meat-processing plant in nearby Takapau, or in pastoral farming, horticulture or related support services.

Green towns

Ongaonga, named after the nearby Ongaonga Stream, shares its name with the Māori term for the native stinging nettle Urtica ferox, a tall woody plant with fine poisonous hairs on the leaves and stems. A newspaper article from 1892 described it as ‘a more ferocious affair’ than the English nettle, as early settlers would have discovered.1 Nearby Te Aute is named after the paper mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera), which was introduced to New Zealand from Polynesia by Māori and grew profusely around the district.


Small township off State Highway 50. Ongaonga was founded in 1872 by runholder H. H. Bridge. Like other runholders who founded towns, Bridge was paternalistic – he built a school and church and provided land for a recreation ground. Large pastoral runs in the district were subdivided into smaller farms between 1899 and 1905, which provided more business for the township and maintained its prosperity.

In the 2000s Ongaonga was best known for its collection of colonial buildings, some of which were relocated there from the surrounding district to form an open-air museum.

    • North Otago Times, 15 February 1892, p. 4. Back

Inland of Hastings and Napier

Bridge Pā

Settlement west of Hastings, with a 2013 population of 1,149. Bridge Pā is a predominantly Māori settlement and has two marae. The outlying district contains the regional prison, vineyards and wineries, an aerodrome and two golf courses – including the Hastings Golf Club, which was established in 1898.


Rural settlement west of Hastings off State Highway 50, with a 2013 district population of 1,284. Nineteenth-century politician Donald McLean owned a pastoral station at Maraekakaho, which his son Douglas subdivided for closer settlement in the early 20th century.

The township is clustered around a primary school and community hall. The surrounding district contains pastoral farms, lifestyle blocks, orchards, vineyards and wineries. Maraekakaho is a comparatively wealthy district – the median income in 2013 was $33,900, well above regional and national averages.

Along the Napier–Taihape road

Rural area in the hill country east of the Kaweka Range, with a 2013 population of 2,727. Māori settlements were located around Oingo and Rūnanga lakes and neighbouring swamps. Pā were also built further inland on hilltops.

Large blocks were leased and later purchased from Māori by European runholders from the 1850s. In the 2000s the district was still mainly occupied by pastoral farms.

The historic Mangawhare station homestead (1879) is located off Taihape Road south of Sherenden. Further west is the Matapiro station homestead (1907), designed by noted architect Charles Tilleard Natusch.

The westernmost settlement of Kurīpāpango was a mountain resort in the 1880s and 1890s. The area was also farmed, and later became part of the Kaweka Forest Park.

Kaweka Forest Park

Department of Conservation park in the Kaweka Range. Māori settlements were located in the foothills near the Tūtaekurī River. The area was cleared and farmed by European settlers in the late 19th century. The mountainous country was not ideal for farming – erosion and soil infertility became problems once the forest was cleared – and the farms were abandoned by 1900.

The area became a state forest in the 1960s and was extensively replanted with exotic pines. It became a forest park in 1972 and is popular with trampers, fishers and water-sports enthusiasts. Mangatutu and Mangatainoka hot springs are located in the park. The highest peak is Kaweka (1,724 m).

A vintage car and machinery museum was located inland at Puketitiri for many years. In 2019 it was moved to Eskdale.

Te Pōhue

Rural settlement on State Highway 5, 45 km north-west of Napier, near Te Waka Range. Te Pōhue was located on a major Māori track between Ahuriri and Taupō. A was built above a nearby lake to watch out for war parties travelling down from the interior.

The first European runholders arrived in the district in the 1850s. A hotel for travellers between Taupō and Napier was first built at Te Pōhue about 1869, and in the 2000s the pub was the settlement’s focal point. The surrounding district is primarily pastoral farmland and exotic forest.

Te Hāroto

Settlement based around the Ngāti Hineuru marae in the mountain ranges on State Highway 5, 69 km north-west of Napier. A military blockhouse was constructed there in 1869, when Māori resistance leader Te Kooti was active. Te Kooti visited Te Hāroto a few times and named the meeting house Rongopai (peace) in 1885. In the 20th century the settlement became a busy timber-milling township, but declined once all the trees had been felled. In the 2000s a few houses and the meeting house remain.

A literary journey

On a journey to Te Urewera in December 1907 Katherine Mansfield, who was to become New Zealand’s best-known writer, and her travelling companions camped at Tarawera Hot Springs. ‘We swam … & when we came out each drank a great mug of mineral water – luke warm & tasting like Miss Wood’s eggs at their worst stage – But you feel – inwardly & outwardly like velvet.’1 The next day they visited Waipunga Falls.


Tarawera, 80 km from Napier on State Highway 5, is at the foot of the Ahimanawa Range close to the Waipunga River, and was originally a Ngāti Hineuru settlement. The colonial government built a stockade there in 1869, one of a number of fortified points between Napier, Taupō and Tauranga. The route from Napier was rugged and winding, and until the 1910s Tarawera was an overnight halt. Hot springs are located nearby and the Waipunga Falls a few kilometres north.

    • Vincent O’Sullivan, and Margaret Scott, eds, The collected letters of Katherine Mansfield. Vol. 1. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984, p. 31. Back

North of Napier


Rural settlement on State Highway 5 near the intersection with State Highway 2, with a 2013 population of 624. The valley has many vineyards, wineries and orchards. The local church, designed by W.E. Finch and dedicated in 1920, memorialises Percival Moore Beattie, a local man killed in the First World War. The Esk River, which has popular fishing spots, has a history of flooding.


Small settlement on State Highway 2 just north of the junction with State Highway 5. In the 2000s Whirinaki was dominated by a gas-turbine power station owned by Contact Energy, and the Pan Pac Forest Products timber-processing plant.


Coastal settlement north of Napier off State Highway 2. The Whakaari headland (part of the Tāngōio Bluff) was an important Māori waka (canoe) landing site and later became a whaling station. Nearby is Tāngōio Forest, an exotic pine plantation.

Waipātiki Beach

Coastal settlement north of Napier off State Highway 2. Waipātiki Beach has a collection of small traditional baches, larger modern holiday homes and a camping ground. Waipātiki was an estuary and important food-gathering spot for Māori until the land was raised by the 1931 earthquake. The adjacent Department of Conservation scenic reserve comprises 64 hectares of the original coastal forest.

Feral sheep

In the early 20th century merino farming was abandoned as unprofitable in the area around the upper reaches of the Mōhaka River behind Tūtira. However, some sheep had already escaped and, though landscape and climatic conditions did not suit merinos in general, hardy types survived and formed a self-sustaining feral population. Mōhaka sheep, which have either black or white wool, are now kept by enthusiasts of rare sheep breeds.


Farming settlement north of Napier on State Highway 5. Tūtira is best known as the inspiration for runholder and naturalist Herbert Guthrie-Smith’s book Tutira: the story of a New Zealand sheep station (1921). He is commemorated by the Guthrie-Smith outdoor education centre and Lake Tūtira campsite near his former homestead. The district is mainly pastoral farmland.


Farming settlement midway between Napier and Wairoa on State Highway 2. Pūtōrino was initially located at the mouth of the Waikari River, which was an important stopping point for Māori canoes. It became a European settlement in the 1860s. Pūtōrino relocated inland next to the Napier–Wairoa road in the early 20th century. Its main buildings are Waikare Hotel and a district sports centre.

Mōhaka River

Major river which runs down from the Kaweka Range through the Maungaharuru Range and drains into Hawke Bay at Mōhaka. The river has long been an important source of food (particularly eels) for Māori, and remains a taonga (treasure) for Ngāti Pahauwera hapū (subtribe). It is also a popular location for water sports and recreational fishing.

The Mōhaka railway viaduct between Kotemāori and Raupunga was constructed between 1930 and 1937. At 95 metres tall, it is the highest in New Zealand.

The highest summit of the Maungaharuru Range is Taraponui (1,308 m).


Small settlement next to the mouth of the Mōhaka River, off State Highway 2. Mōhaka is a Māori settlement surrounded by pastoral farmland. The main hapū is Ngāti Pahauwera. The round meeting house Rongomaiwahine is a local landmark.

A busy European township developed on the opposite side of the river in the 1860s. Both the Māori and European settlements were attacked by Māori resistance leader Te Kooti in 1869 for supplies and as an act of reprisal for earlier grievances. Seven Pākehā and 61 Māori were killed. The European settlement eventually failed, but Māori continued to occupy the north side of the river.



Only town and major rural service centre in northern Hawke’s Bay, 93 km south-west of Gisborne and 119 km north-east of Napier, with a 2013 population of 4,050. Wairoa is divided into two halves by the Wairoa River. The south side contains the main shopping streets next to the river, with wide residential streets arranged in a grid pattern behind. The north side is predominantly industrial. In the 2000s it was the site of the Affco freezing works, a key employer in the town and source of business for the district’s pastoral farmers.

Media Fox

One of Wairoa’s most famous sons is broadcaster and politician Derek Fox, who was born in the town. He has worked extensively in television, radio and print media, and chaired the board of Māori Television. Fox was also the mayor of Wairoa from 1995 to 2001, during which time he was an outspoken advocate of the town and its prospects. He stood unsuccessfully for Parliament in 1999 and 2008.


Wairoa was originally a Māori settlement. The ancestral canoe Tākitimu travelled up the river and landed near where the Tākitimu meeting house now sits. The river was an important source of food for the community that grew on its banks.

William Rhodes established a trading station there in 1839, and missionary William Williams first visited in 1841. A permanent mission station was established in 1844. Early European squatters ran sheep and traded flax.

The town site (then called Clyde) was purchased by the government in 1864 and sections were sold to settlers in 1866. Members of the Māori Pai Mārire (Hauhau) faith arrived in the district around the same time and Wairoa became a colonial military base. Battles were fought around upper Wairoa and Lake Waikaremoana. Māori land in the district and around the lake was later confiscated by the government despite many Wairoa Māori having fought for the Crown.

Development of the town was hindered by lack of roads and difficulty navigating the entrance to the Wairoa River. The land was converted into pastoral farms and later exotic pine forestry, and dairy factories and freezing works were opened. However, Wairoa continued to be constrained by its isolation and reliance on rural industries vulnerable to economic downturns.

At the movies

Since 2005 Wairoa has hosted the annual Wairoa Māori Film Festival, which showcases Māori and indigenous films made around the world. The films are screened in the town’s Gaiety Cinema and in marae around the district.


Though Wairoa’s population grew modestly but steadily through most of the 20th century, it has been declining since the mid-1980s. Post-school qualification rates are low and in 2013, 40.2% of residents had no qualifications. Income levels are similarly low – in 2013 the median income was $20,400, compared to $28,500 nationally.

In 2013, 66.3% of Wairoa residents identified as Māori, reflecting northern Hawke’s Bay’s status as a centre of New Zealand’s Māori population.


Small rural settlement north of Wairoa on State Highway 38, with a 2013 population of 252. Frasertown was originally called Te Kapu, but was renamed by early settlers for Major James Fraser, who led military forces in Wairoa in the 1860s. The old Frasertown cemetery contains graves dating from 1875 to 1962. Frasertown has two marae, a general store, tavern and primary school.

Wairoa River

Major river that runs down from the hill country north of Wairoa and drains to Hawke Bay below Wairoa town. The Wairoa River, with its tributaries, has the largest catchment of any river in Hawke’s Bay. A sandbar at the mouth limits navigation and caused the failure of the early town’s port.

A battle between government troops and Te Kooti’s forces occurred on the Ruakituri River (which drains into the Wairoa River) in 1868.


Māhia Peninsula

Large peninsula (21 kms long by 15 kms at widest point) at the northern end of Hawke Bay, with a 2013 population of 723. Māhia Peninsula (then called Nukutaurua) was an important area of Māori settlement in pre-colonial times. The ancestral canoes Kurahaupō and Tākitimu landed on the peninsula. Māhia Peninsula people claim descent from the 16th-century union of Rongomaiwahine and Kahungunu. In the 1820s the peninsula became a refuge when Hawke’s Bay was invaded by armed tribes from the west and north.

It still has a significant Māori population – in 2013, 60% of residents identified as Māori. Onenui station, on the southern end of the peninsula, is owned by Māori.

Ruawharo’s rock

When the Tākitimu landed on Māhia Peninsula the tohunga (priest) Ruawharo decided to settle there. He built a above Ōraka Beach and deposited sand from his homeland Hawaiki on a rock to encourage whales to beach there. The rock became one of the most sacred mauri (talismans) in the North Island. The meeting house at Ōpoutama is named after Ruawharo.

The first European settlers were whalers and traders. Early runholders James Watt and George Walker had a 20,000-acre (8,094-hectare) station on the peninsula, which they leased from Māori. The government purchased most of the peninsula in 1864 and thereafter the land was farmed. In the 2000s sheep and beef cattle remained important sources of business and employment. Māhia Peninsula and its beaches have become desirable holiday spots.

In 2016 the Rocket Lab Launch Complex – New Zealand’s first commercial spaceport – opened on Ahuriri Point, the southern tip of the peninsula.

Māhia and Māhia Beach

Main settlements on Māhia Peninsula. Māhia Beach is on the west side of the isthmus connecting the peninsula to the mainland. Town sections were laid out in 1874 but the township did not grow as envisaged. The grid pattern of most streets reflects the plan.

Māhia is on the east side of the isthmus. The settlement is strung along the coastal road that runs south down the peninsula. Both settlements have a community of permanent residents as well as a number of baches (holiday homes).

Portland Island

Narrow, 3-kilometre long rectangular island off the southern tip of Māhia Peninsula. Portland Island (or Waikawa) was home to an important whare wānanga (Māori house of learning) called Ngāheru-mai-tawhiti. Whaling stations were established there in the 1840s, followed by pastoral farms in later decades.

A lighthouse built on the southern end of the island in 1876 was manned by three keepers who lived on the island, some with families. The lighthouse was automated in 1984 and the old building relocated to the main street of Wairoa, where it sits on the banks of the river. In the 2000s sheep are run on the island by the owners of Onenui station, but it is now uninhabited.


Small settlement on State Highway 2 north-west of Māhia Peninsula, with a 2013 population of 258. Nūhaka has a general store, fire station and two marae. In 2013, 75.6% of residents identified as Māori.


Site of natural mineral springs on State Highway 2 north of Māhia Peninsula. Mōrere contains a hot springs complex, tea room and camp site. The springs were a traditional bathing spot for the Ngāti Rākaipaaka hapū. In the 1880s most of the surrounding native bush was cleared for farming, except immediately around the springs, which became a thermal reserve in 1895. A bathhouse and hotel were built at this time. The reserve is administered by the Department of Conservation and the hot springs are leased to a private operator.


Lake Waikaremoana

Largest body of fresh water in Hawke’s Bay, and 14th-largest lake in New Zealand. Lake Waikaremoana, 66 km by road north-west of Wairoa, is relatively young. It was formed about 2,200 years ago when a massive landslip blocked a gorge on the Waikaretāheke River. The gorge gradually filled with water, creating a lake up to 248 metres deep. The lake was lowered by 5 metres when hydroelectric power stations were built on waterways below between 1926 and 1948. 

Lake within a lake

Lake Waikareiti has six islands within its waters. The largest island, Rāhui, has its own lake. Lakes within lakes are uncommon in New Zealand. Lake Waikareiti is free of pollution and introduced plants, and its water is renowned for its clarity.

The lake is surrounded by bush-clad hills and mountain ranges crossed by many streams and rivers. The smaller Lake Waikareiti is north-east of Waikaremoana.


Lake Waikaremoana is sacred to Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Ruapani and Ngāti Kahungunu tribes. Tūhoe and Ngāti Ruapani were early settlers in the district. All three tribal groups fought battles with one another to secure access to the lake, while also forging connections through marriage and war alliances. Ngāti Kahungunu’s claim on Lake Waikaremoana is derived from marriages between the children of the eponymous ancestors Kahungunu and Ruapani.

Taniwha lake

In Māori tradition, Lake Waikaremoana was formed during an epic domestic struggle. A chief, Māhū, asked his daughter Haumapuhia to fetch some water from a sacred well. When she refused he went himself, but was very slow. When Haumapuhia went to find her father, he was still angry and tried to drown her in the well. The gods of the land heard her cries for help and turned her into a taniwha (water monster). She carved out the lake bed during her struggle for freedom.

A skirmish between government forces and members of the Pai Mārire (Hauhau) faith took place near Lake Waikaremoana in 1866. Resistance leader Te Kooti spent much time around the lake, which was an ideal spot to hide out and launch raids from. Military redoubts were established in the early 1870s but Te Kooti had moved on by then. Permanent settlements on the lake disappeared after this, though Māori continued to live around Tuai.

The government purchased land around the lake in the 1920s. The lake itself was not included, but the government went on to claim possession. Ownership of the lake was contested in the courts from 1918 to 1947, when 354 Māori owners were finally awarded title to the lake. In 1971 the lake was leased in perpetuity to the Crown as a key part of Te Urewera National Park. In 2014, as part of Ngāi Tūhoe’s Treaty of Waitangi settlement, the park was disestablished and administration of the area passed to Te Urewera Board.


Settlement on the shores of Lake Whakamarino, south of Lake Waikaremoana, with a 2013 district population of 219. Tuai is named after a Ngāti Ruapani ancestor whose was on the site of the Tuai power station. This opened in 1929 as part of the Waikaremoana power scheme, and the modern-day settlement grew up around it. Originally a tent town housed workers building the station; these were later replaced by permanent houses for station employees. Lake Whakamarino is an artificial lake created as part of the power scheme works.

Tuai, and the other power stations in the system at Kaitawa and Pipipāua, have been operated remotely from the Tokaanu power station at Lake Taupō since the early 2000s. The Waikaremoana power scheme is no longer a significant employer in Tuai.

Hononga, rauemi nō waho

More suggestions and sources

How to cite this page: Kerryn Pollock, 'Hawke’s Bay places', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 April 2024)

He kōrero nā Kerryn Pollock, i tāngia i te 13 o Ākuhata 2009, updated 30 o Noema 2015