Hawke’s Bay is a former province on the east coast of the North Island. The region extends from the southern area of Poverty Bay westwards to the Kaweka Range and the central ridge of the Ruahine Range and down south to a point just below Cape Turnagain. It includes the cities of Napier and Hastings, and the towns of Woodville, Dannevirke, Havelock North, Wairoa, Waipukurau and Waipawa.
At the time of European settlement, the southern area consisted of forests on the northern end of the Seventy-Mile Bush. The now fertile and easily accessible Heretaunga Plains, surrounding Hastings, were swampy and criss-crossed by a number of rivers. Napier and Wairoa to the north were the most easily accessible points by sea and it was there that the initial settlements took place. Most of the first settlers in the region were sheep farmers and they took advantage of the tussock lands in the central and northern parts of the region. Many of these settlers came from Wairarapa, moving northwards in the 1850s.
Hawke’s Bay became a province in 1858. A meeting in Napier decided the region was being neglected by the Wellington Provincial Council, and so settlers established a province of their own. At the time there were fewer than 1,200 people.
Hawke’s Bay has a solid base in farming, mostly sheep on both the flat and the hill country to the north and west, and a thriving cropping industry serving a highly developed canning industry.
James Cook named the bay Hawke’s Bay in October 1769 after Sir Edward Hawke, First Lord of the Admiralty at the time of Cook’s voyage. This name has been retained for the region, but the bay itself, curving from the inner coast of the Mahia Peninsula, is Hawke Bay.