Gisborne (Māori: Tūranga-nui-a-Kiwa „Great standing place of Kiwa“) is a city in northeastern New Zealand and the largest settlement in the Gisborne District (or Gisborne Region). It has a population of 36,100 (June 2016). The district council has its headquarters in Whataupoko, in the central city.
The settlement was originally known as Turanga and renamed Gisborne in 1870 in honour of New Zealand Colonial Secretary William Gisborne.
The Gisborne region has been settled for over 700 years. For centuries the region has been inhabited by the tribes of Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Rongowhakaata, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri and Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti. Their people descend from the voyagers of the Te Ikaroa-a-Rauru, Horouta and Tākitimu waka.
East Coast oral traditions offer differing versions of Gisborne’s establishment by Māori. One of which legends recounts that in the 1300s, the great navigator Kiwa landed at the Tūranganui River first on the waka Tākitimu after voyaging to the region from Hawaiki and that Pāoa, captain of the waka Horouta, followed later. According to one legend, Kiwa waited so long for the Horouta canoe to arrive that he called its final landing place Tūranganui-a-Kiwa (The long waiting place of Kiwa).
However, a more popular version of events is that Horouta preceded Takitimu. In 1931, Sir Āpirana Ngata stated that Horouta was the main canoe that brought the people to the East Coast and that Ngāti Porou always regarded Takitimu as „an unimportant canoe“. Māori historian Rongowhakaata Halbert affirmed this account, stating that Paoa’s crew on the Horouta were the first inhabitants of the East Coast after migrating from Ahuahu or Great Mercury Island. Paoa gave his name to various places across the region, most notably the Waipāoa River (Wai-o-Pāoa).
During the 14th century, Māori tribes built fishing villages close to the sea and built pā on nearby hilltops.
Captain Cook landing
Gisborne’s Kaiti Beach is the place where British navigator Captain James Cook made his first landing in New Zealand upon the Endeavour. Cook had earlier set off from Plymouth, England in August 1768 on a mission bound for Tahiti. Once he had concluded his duties in Tahiti, Cook continued south to look for a large landmass or continent. Young Nick’s Head was thought to be the first piece of New Zealand land sighted by Cook’s party, and so named because it was first observed by cabin boy Nicholas Young on 6 October 1769.
On 9 October, Cook came ashore on the eastern bank of the Tūranganui River, accompanied by a party of men. Their arrival was marred by misunderstanding and resulted in the death and wounding of nine Maori over four days. It was also on the banks of the Tūranganui River that first the township of Tūranga, then the city of Gisborne, grew as European traders and whalers began to settle in the river and port area.
The landing site was commemorated by a monument in 1906, on the 137th anniversary of Cook’s arrival. In 1964 the Gisborne committee of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust registered the land around the monument as a historic reserve, and in 1990 it was designated a National Historic Reserve and put under the care of the Department of Conservation.
Gisborne is a coastal city located on the east cape of New Zealand’s North Island. It sits at the south end of the Gisborne District and also within Poverty Bay. The Poverty Bay Flats encompass Gisborne city as well as surrounding areas Mākaraka, Matawhero and Ormond where vineyards and farms are prominent. Gisborne is flat towards the shoreline, but forested and hilly inland.
Gisborne boasts a large stretch of coastline encompassing the Waikanae and Midway, Kaiti, Sponge Bay, Wainui and Makorori white sand beaches, which are popular for swimming and surfing.
Sometimes referred to as the ‚City of Rivers‘, Gisborne sits at the convergence of the Waimata, Taruheru and Tūranganui rivers. At only 1200 meters long, Tūranganui is the shortest river in New Zealand.
Kaiti Hill (Titirangi), which sits directly above Cook’s landing site, provides expansive views over the city and wider Poverty Bay. Many archaeological sites have been identified on Titirangi, including burial grounds, terraces, and middens. Titirangi Pā sits near the summit.
In the wider area surrounding Gisborne are two arboreta, Eastwoodhill, the National Arboretum of New Zealand at Ngatapa which spans over 130 hectares, and the smaller 50 hectare Hackfalls Arboretum at Tiniroto.
Up until Samoa and Tokelau’s dateline shift in December 2011, Gisborne claimed to be the first city on Earth to see the sun rise each day. However, this is now only accurate in New Zealand’s summer months.