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Te Ara, NZ's online encyclopedia, launches Gisborne entry

24 August 2011

Te Ara, New Zealand’s online encyclopedia, launches Gisborne entry

Gisborne is well known for its bright hot climate, chardonnay and relaxed coastal lifestyle, but as Te Ara – the online encyclopedia of New Zealand – reports, its history is filled with some of New Zealand’s most significant events, meetings and culture.

This Thursday evening Te Ara launches its Gisborne entry, the last of its regional entries which span this country’s local and regional history. Local resident Dr Monty Soutar (Ngati Porou) has written the entry during the last twelve months illustrating the variety of stories and people from the region. “There was a lot to cover as the region is a large one with several towns and settlements dotted along the coast and hinterlands. It also has a high Maori population, almost 50%, and a rich Maori history which I was keen to see reflected in the entry.”

The region boasts a number of claims to fame - the longest serving mayor in New Zealand, the only New Zealand born heavyweight boxer to challenge for the world title, New Zealand’s first electric tram operation and the launching pad for Kiri te Kanawa, Kerridge movie theatres, and the Watties enterprise.

The facts

• The Tūranganui River in Gisborne is where British explorer James Cook originally set foot in New Zealand, and Te Toka-a-Taiau, a rock that once stood in the river, marked the first meeting between Europeans (Cook’s party) and Māori in 1769.

• The East Coast is the region with the highest percentage of Māori. Along the coast proper, the homeland of Ngāti Porou, around 85% of the population of 5,000 are Māori, compared with 14.6% in New Zealand as a whole. Of the 40,000 people of Poverty Bay – including Gisborne, with a population of 31,000 – about 44% are Māori. In 2006 the total population of the region was 44,460.

• In 1948 storm and flooding in Poverty Bay on 14 May wreaked havoc and destruction in the region. As a consequence, flood control schemes were implemented on the Waipaoa River. Te Ara has archival footage of the floods here:; and also covers the impact of the floods following Cyclone Bola in 1988

• The phenomenally successful film, Whale Rider was shot in Whangara near Gisborne. You can see a short clip of the area and the film here:

• Te Ara also hosts films and footage of the way we were – see what Gisborne locals thought of their town in 1963:

• Meng Foon is the mayor of Gisborne and a fluent speaker of Māori - this video clip shows local students performing Tu Mai – a song composed by Meng Foon:


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