700 years of Turanganui history in a postage stamp tour

Blessing the fishing fleet October 1969
Blessing the Fishing Fleet Gisborne Oct 1969. Credit: Gisborne Heraldexpand/collapse
Sixty people are booked in for Historic Places Tairawhiti’s walking tour of early Maōri history around Gisborne’s Turanganui River including arrivals on waka hourua and settlement with a focus on early pa, gardens, and the tribal boundary rock Te Toka a Taiau/Taiao where Maōri first greeted James Cook in 1769. This tour will take place on 5 December. 

The tribal boundary rock was blasted by the Gisborne Harbour Board in the late 1870s to improve shipping access into the emerging port. 

Event co-organiser, Sheridan Gundry, says the stories will include the loss of land, the sale of land to European settlers and the development of the Gisborne port and harbour. 

“We are briefly telling 700 years of history around the river and harbour in a small footprint. Local kaumatua, our  HP Tairawhiti Chair, James Blackburne, and committee members Kris Clayton, Joe Martin and I, will talk about various aspects from the arrival of Cook, Tupaia and the Endeavour, to bush felling, sediment build-up, port development,  farming and freezing works industries, bridges and rail links, and the development of the township of Turanga, later called Gisborne. We will talk about early whalers and traders, John Harris and George Read and buildings such as the courthouse which remains on the site of the early pa Hei Pipi.” 

Architect James Blackburne will be talking about the wealth of Edwardian buildings close to the river including the Union Steam Ship Co, NZ Shipping, LD Nathan, the Poverty Bay Club, Wrightsons and Williams and Kettles. 

”We will also talk about industries that sprang up on both sides of the river, like the Kaiti Freezing Works,  and from the 1950s, Watties and the fishing industry and the people associated with these establishments. Kaumatua Stan Pardoe will be talking about Te Toka Taiao from a Rongowhakaata perspective”.  

The tour ends at James Blackburne’s historic home  Pohatu on the banks of the Waimata River, which flows into the Turanganui River.

- Sheridan Gundry