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The Gisborne region has been settled for over 700 years. A pact between two migratory waka (canoe) skippers, Paoa of the Horouta and Kiwa of the Takitimu, led to the founding of Turanganui a Kiwa (now Gisborne). Kumara flourished in the fertile soil and the settlement blossomed.

In 1769 this was the first part of NZ sighted by Cook’s expedition. Eager to replenish supplies and explore the land they set ashore, much to the amazement of the local people. Setting an unfortunate benchmark for Maori/Pakeha (non Maori) relations, the crew opened fire when the local men performed their traditional blood-curdling challenge, killing six of them.

The Endeavour quickly set sail up the coast without the provisions they were seeking. Cook, perhaps in a fit of petulance, named the area Poverty Bay as ‘it did not afford a single item we wanted’. The name stuck, and Cook and crew made a much better impression at their next landfall, Tolaga Bay.

European settlement didn’t begin until 1831. Motivated self-starter John Williams Harris established a whaling base on the Turanganui River’s west bank and a farm near Manutuke. Whaling boomed and missionaries followed. More Europeans moved to the area but Maori resistance to land sales limited settlement.

In the 1860s battles between settlers and Maori erupted. Beginning in Taranaki, the Hauhau insurrection spread to the East Coast, culminating in the Battle of Waerenga a hika in 1865. The following year the government crushed all opposition and transported survivors, including Te Kooti, to the Chatham Islands.