History of Gisborne

Gisborne is located on the East Coast of the North Island and is the first city in the world to see the sun each day. The Maori name for the area is Tairawhiti which means "the coast upon which the sun shines across the water".

Local tradition holds that Kaiti Beach near the city was where the Horouta canoe brought the first Maori migrants to this area and is also the place of the first European landing in New Zealand by Captain James Cook. Cook sighted New Zealand on October 8, 1769. Nicholas Young was the first on board to sight the coastal hills now known as Young Nick’s Head.

Local folklore tells of the Maori perceiving Cook’s ship Endeavour as an enormous bird with wings of great size and beauty. The longboats they regarded as fledglings, while Cook and his men were thought to be atua (spirit people or God figures).

On October 9, 1769 Cook and his party made their historic landing just to the east of the Turanganui River mouth. Cook and some of his men crossed the river and walked along Waikanae Stream leaving gifts near some Maori whare (homes). On hearing gunfire they hurriedly returned to find that a Maori of Aitanga a Hauiti had been killed while warning shots were being fired.


The following day local Rongowhakaata challenged a landing party with a haka and Cook and a Maori leader met with a hongi and exchanged gifts. Warriors and sailors mixed together uneasily and when a sword was snatched a shot was fired and a Maori was fatally wounded.

More unfortunate deaths occurred when canoes approaching the Endeavour failed to understand the marines' signal volley. However, some Maori were taken onboard, fed, given gifts and rowed ashore the next morning.

Cook weighed anchor on October 12, 1769 and the Endeavour sailed from Poverty Bay, named by Cook "...as it afforded us not one thing we wanted".

European settlement was established in 1831 and the town was named after Hon. William Gisborne, the Colonial Secretary, in 1870.

Prior to this, the settlement was known as Turanga but confusion with Tauranga in Bay of Plenty led to the name change. To the early Maori, the Poverty Bay area was known as Turanganui-a-Kiwa meaning "the stopping place of Kiwa".

Gisborne became a borough in 1877 and a city in 1955, and currently has a population of 45,000.