Tokomaru Bay Wharf

Waima Road, Waima, Tokomaru Bay

  • Tokomaru Bay Wharf. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 26/03/2018.
  • Tokomaru Bay Wharf. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 26/03/2018.
  • Tokomaru Bay Wharf. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Shellie Evans. Taken By: Shellie Evans – flyingkiwigirl. Date: 26/03/2018.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 3565 Date Entered 5th April 1984 Date of Effect 5th April 1984


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the whole of the structure known as Tokomaru Bay Wharf, which extends south-east from the land parcel described as Sec 1 Blk IVA Tokomaru SD (RT GS3A/716), Gisborne Land District and across the beach front and into Tokomaru Bay (refer to map tabled at the Board meeting on 27 June 2013).

City/District Council

Gisborne District


Gisborne Region

Legal description

Sec 1 Blk IVA Tokomaru SD (RT GS3A/716), Gisborne Land District


The Tokomaru Bay Wharf at Waima, Tokomaru Bay was built in 1940, replacing an earlier structure. The success of the Tokomaru Freezing Works had necessitated the continued expansion of the wharf since 1911; however, the disestablishment of the Tokomaru Bay Freezing Works in 1952 meant that the wharf was no longer utilised to any great capacity. Tokomaru Bay Wharf has historical and social significance as a recognisable remnant of a once thriving industry in Waima. The wharf is part of an interwoven group of structures that stand testament to the freezing works and shipping industries. These large-scale industries once provided jobs for hundreds of people in the Tokomaru Bay area. The continued expansion and rebuilding of the wharf shows how shipping monopolised transport in the Tairawhiti region and how the improvement of road transport links in the mid-twentieth century compromised the viability of water transport. Tokomaru Bay Wharf has aesthetic significance as a much photographed and recognisable landmark in the bay.

Waima is a small bay situated in the north-eastern curve of Tokomaru Bay. The district was once called Toka-a-Namu, (abundance of sandflies - namu). The principal hapu is Ngati Porou and the first people who settled in the district were tribal groups thought to be descended from ancestor Toi te Huatahi. Henare Potae (?-1895) was a prominent leader in the area. He encouraged settlement at Tokomaru Bay by granting long-term leases to graze blocks of land as sheep runs. Farming was to become the primary enterprise within the Tairawhiti region, which generated a need for local freezing works. The reliance was on shipping for transport due to poor road networks.

At Waima, on the north side of the bay, the Tokomaru Bay Freezing Works were erected in 1911 through the efforts and fundraising of a group of local farmers. There was already a wharf at Waima before the establishment of the freezing works, however that same year the wharf was extended and improved to allow larger vessels to dock. The enlarged wharf is described as 1200 (365.7 metres) feet in length. The Tokomaru Harbour Board was also established in 1911, taking over the existing wharf and sheds.

In 1912 a 3 foot (0.91 metre) railway was constructed to carry cargo to and from the lighters at the end of Tokomaru Bay Wharf. The cargo was transported by a small steam locomotive. The New Zealand Shipping Company Offices and Wool Store (Register No. 3480), Manager’s House (Register No. 3479) and Stables (Register No. 3478) were also constructed in 1912. By 1914 the wharf was extremely busy with passengers and livestock; further extension of the wharf occurred at the instigation of the Tokomaru Bay Harbour Board. Between 1913 and 1916 approximately 400 vessels were handled annually.

During the 1930s plans were drawn up by the Tokomaru Bay Harbour Board to replace the wharf with a new timber and concrete structure. In 1937 the successful tenderer to reconstruct the wharf was Mr R.A. Cornish of Auckland. Mr Cornish was to be allowed 15 months for the completion of the work. Approximately 100,000 tons of cargo was handled in 1939.

Tokomaru Bay Wharf was completed by 1940. However, the improvement of overland transport routes and decline in overseas shipping caused the closure of the freezing works in 1952. In 1963 the Harbour Board was dissolved, and its powers were transferred to the Waiapu County Council (amalgamated into the Gisborne District Council in 1989). Today the much photographed Tokomaru Bay Wharf is used by visitors and residents as a place for fishing, walking and recreational boats to dock.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Cornish, R.A.

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

1911 -
Tokomaru Bay Wharf rebuilt and enlarged

1912 -
Tramway added

1940 -
Tokomaru Bay Wharf constructed in current configuration

Completion Date

13th June 2013

Report Written By

Linda Pattison

Information Sources

Mason, 1984

Mason, Helen, Waima of Tokomaru Bay, Tauira Crafts 1984

O'Connell, 1977

O’Connell, John, Pride in their Ports, Dunmore 1977

Other Information

A fully referenced Upgrade Report is available from the Lower Northern Area office of NZHPT.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.