Events of the East Coast

Māori lived on the East Coast for a long time before the arrival of European settlers, traders, whalers, and missionaries. The region is well known for the achievements of the demigod Māui-tikitiki-a-Taranga.

1904 painting showing Cook's landing at the mouth of the Tūranganui River in 1769.

Image: Cook's Landing At The Mouth Of The Turanganui River by F F C Huddleston. Collection: Tairawhiti Museum.

Which events can I learn about?

Here are some events related to the East Coast you could find out about:

8 October 1769

8 October 1769
Cook's landfall at Tūranganui-a Kīwa | Poverty Bay.

Find out about Cook's landfall
April to May 1840

April to May 1840
Missionary Alfred Brown and Major Thomas Bunbury gathered signatures for the Māori-language copy of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Find out about the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi
16 November 1865

16 November 1865
East Cape Wars. Māori and colonial soldiers laid siege at Waerenga-a-Hika pā in their fight against Pai Mārire forces.

Find out about Te Kooti's war
1865 to 1866

1865 to 1866
The foundation of Gisborne. The government bought 300 hectares of land for a town site that was laid out in 1870.

Find out about the foundation of Gisborne
22 July 1981

22 July 1981
Springbok tour protests. Tour supporters and anti-tour protesters came face to face at the Springbok game in Gisborne.

Find out about the 1981 Springbok tour
7 March 1988

7 March 1988
Cyclone Bola struck Hawke's Bay and Gisborne. Floods damaged houses, roads, railway lines, and bridges.

Find out about Cyclone Bola

Tips: These are just some examples of events you could research. You may have something different you're interested in finding out about. Just use words related to the event as your search terms in the resources below.

East Coast resources

Regional websites from local newspapers, libraries, archives, and museums hold lots of information on events in the history of the area.

Tupapa: Our Stand. Our Story

Tupapa is a bilingual website, rich with stories about the first people who navigated from Polynesian to Aotearoa, their arrival here, and early life in Turanganui-a-Kiwa (Gisborne).

  • Go down the page to choose a story to Explore.

Tips: Some websites have .au, .nz, .uk or other codes in their url. This can tell you which country this website comes from eg .au is from Australia or .nz is from New Zealand.

Tairawhiti Museum

The museum is at the centre of the promotion of arts, culture, and heritage activities in the Te Tairāwhiti region. You will find lots of images and articles relating to events on the East Coast.

  • The tab Collections has a link to Tairāwhiti’s Second World War memories.

  • The tab What's happening has a link to the Museum blog.

  • Select the James Cook button to read the stories about the Crook Cook statue and Cook's Cannon in Gisborne.

  • Or browse the other blog posts for a topic you're interested in.

Tips: Many web pages have links to further information or to other recommended sites. Following these links is a great way to find out more. This searching method is called “pearl growing” because you are picking up pieces of sand to make a beautiful pearl!

Tairawhiti Museum Online Collection

This is the online collection for Tairawhiti Museum. It has archives, photographs, art, taonga Māori, natural and social history objects.

  • You can search the collection using words related to an event.

  • Choose an object to take a closer look.

H B Williams Memorial Library

The library opened in its current location in 1967 when the Williams family gifted the land and buildings.

  • Find the tab Digital Library.

  • Explore Local Resources to find links to local news and community websites.

  • You can also visit the library in person to see what local history information they have.

Tips: Local libraries are some of the best places to find information about your local area. Ask the librarian in your local library about the section on local history.

General New Zealand resources

Below is a selection of history, news, and government websites that have a good amount of information on events from this region.

Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we go down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • The section on Places has stories about the East Coast region that covers Māori and Pākehā settlement, local government, arts, culture, and development.

  • Go down the homepage to Te Tai Treaty Settlement Stories to find Ngāti Porou Deed of Settlement, videos, a film, and other iwi information.

  • You can also search using a keyword related to something that has happened.


NZHistory is a great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we go all the way down the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage.

  • Go to the Places tab, then select East Coast.

  • Read the stories behind Takipu and Young Nick's Head.

  • Or search for articles using keywords related to something that happened.

Papers Past - Newspapers

This is a searchable collection of early NZ newspapers (19th and 20th centuries) by the National Library and its partners.

  • Select the tab called By Region, then select Gisborne.

  • Select a newspaper to choose one to read or search within.

  • To find newspapers in te reo Māori go to About from the top of the page, then go down the page to find a list of Māori Newspapers.

  • The two publications called Matariki and Takitimu are te reo Māori newspapers from the region.

  • You can also search from the main page using keywords related to an event.

Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.


E-Tangata is an online Sunday magazine run by Mana Trust to reflect a more balanced view of Māori and Pacific lives and issues in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Radio New Zealand

RNZ is a public radio service on New Zealand news, current affairs, Pacific, Te Ao Māori, sport, and business including opinions and analysis.

  • Use search terms 'Gisborne', 'East Coast' or 'Te Tairāwhiti' or names of people, places, and events to find historical or current news about topics.

Te Ao Hou | The New World

Te Ao Hou is the online version of a bilingual quarterly published by the Māori Affairs Department from 1952 to 1976. You will find articles about Māori history, society, culture, music, and literature of that time.

  • Use the search option at the top of the page to enter names of people, places, or events or browse by issues.

  • For example, enter 'Gisborne' to read How kumara came to Aotearoa, or an article from 1963 on the Waihirere Māori Club formed to support young Māori and Māori culture in this region.

Te Arawhiti | The Office for Māori Crown Relations

This government website has information about Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

  • Select Te Kāhui Whakatau (Treaty Settlements).

  • Then choose Find a Treaty settlement.

  • Look down the page to find the Deeds of Settlement for the iwi you're looking for.

  • The summary documents are good to start with and have an overview and historical background.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Funded by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision is New Zealand’s audio-visual archive. Their collection includes film and television, radio and sound recordings, props, posters, and more from over 120 years of New Zealand’s history.

  • Enter words related to an event in the search bar.

  • For example, Enter the search terms Gisborne Māori Batallion, and Springboks 1981 Tour - Tairāwhiti to find audio recordings on the topics.

  • When using the search feature, remember to select the View or listen online now filter as this will bring up content that you can access online.

Tips: You may see a message about cookies on this website. Cookies are a kind of data collector that is used by some websites to collect information about their users.


This is a search site that focuses on New Zealand history and brings together results from lots of different websites such as New Zealand libraries, museums, universities, and government sites all at once.

  • Use search words about people, places or events on the East Coast to view a range of videos, audio, articles and images, and more about your topic.

Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.


EPIC is a collection of reliable databases put together especially for New Zealand school students. Included are some databases that cover the history of Aotearoa.

  • We recommend New Zealand Geographic Online, New Zealand History Collection, Treaty of Waitangi Collection and the BWB Text Collection for various topics about New Zealand History.

  • The New Zealand History Collection has a book called The New Zealand Wars: Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa by Vincent O'Malley.

  • There is a chapter on the East Coast Wars 1865-66.

Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6 pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your school and public library.

Early New Zealand Books (ENZB)

ENZB has been developed by the University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services. Remember that these online full-text books were written in the early part of the nineteenth century.

  • Select Search at the top of the page and enter the keywords related to an event.

  • If you search for 'Poverty Bay' you will find lots of entries from The Turanga Journals written by the missionary William Williams.

  • Read Turanga Mission Stations to find out about the beginning of land buying and setting up mission stations in Gisborne.


New Zealand Electronic Text Collection (NZETC) is a growing collection of New Zealand and Pacific Island digitised historical and contemporary texts, and manuscripts. The texts have been presented as they were published. The site uses Google to search, so the results will look like a normal Google search but all the results are from the NZETC.

Tips: Remember that some of the content in the ENZB and NZETC texts has been written a long time ago, by people offering perspectives and reports, some of which may be different from the way people think today.


Look for books about the East Coast in your school library or local library. Your local librarian and elders in the community such as grandparents or kaumatua (elders in Māori society) would be the best people to help you with your research about your local history.

Here are a few titles to help you begin your search:

More about the East Coast

People of the East Coast

This section will help you get familiar with iwi, hapū, groups of people, and well-known names in politics, sport, and entertainment from this rohe (region).

Learn about people of the East Coast

Places of the East Coast

Gisborne District Council is divided into the East Coast and Poverty Bay. Gisborne, Te Araroa, Ruatoria, and Waikohu are some of the historic towns in this region. The Hangaroa River, Waiapu River, Waipāoa River, and Ūawa River flow through this region.

Learn about places of the East Coast