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).

1908 photo of a group of 16 Māori leaders of Gisborne. They are sitting and standing in rows.

Image: Maori Leaders of Gisborne by [unknown]. Collection: Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: 1/2-044562-F.

Which people can I learn about?

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

Apirana Ngata (1874-1950)

Apirana Ngata (1874-1950)
Ngāti Porou leader, politician, and scholar.

Find out about Apirana Ngata
Dame Kiri te Kanawa (1944-)

Dame Kiri te Kanawa (1944-)
International award-winning opera singer and New Zealand icon from Gisborne.

Find out about Dame Kiri te Kanawa
Riperata Kahutia (1838/9-1887)

Riperata Kahutia (1838/9-1887)
Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki leader from Tūranga. Known for her claims in the Native Land Court and the Poverty Bay Commission.

Find out about Riperata Kahutia
Sir James Carroll (1857-1926)

Sir James Carroll (1857-1926)
Ngāti Kahungunu. Interpreter to the House of Representatives, Cabinet Minister, and twice acting Prime Minister.

Find out about Sir James Carroll
Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki (? to 1893)

Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki (? to 1893)
Rongowhakaata leader and prophet. Founder of the Ringatū church.

Find out about Te Kooti
Wiremu "Wi" Pere (1837-1915)

Wiremu "Wi" Pere (1837-1915)
Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki and Rongowhakaata. Politician and supporter of the Repudiation movement.

Find out about Wiremu Pere

Tips: These are just some examples of people you could research. You may have someone different you're interested in finding out about. Just use their name as your search terms in the resources below.

Local iwi:

Note: Iwi are listed in alphabetical order. This list was put together to the best of our knowledge. If there are any other iwi to be included, please let us know.

East Coast resources

These regional websites are the best places to find out about people and why they are well-known.

Te Runanganui o Ngāti Porou

This website covers the life, stories, news, and business of Ngāti Porou.

  • Use the tab Nati Story to find Our Taonga.

  • Use the Nati Life tab, to find out the importance of marae.

  • Go to Nati Biz to read about their business activities that support Māori economic development.

Te Aitanga a Hauiti Centre of Excellence

The purpose of this organisation is to promote, support, and develop the cultural, social, and political aspirations of Te Aitanga a Hauiti whānau iwi.

Te Aitanga a Mahaki

The home page explains their history that begins with the arrival of the Horouta waka at Ohiwa.

  • Use the tabs to discover information about the responsibilities of their

    Trust, and their many tribal marae, such as Rangatira Mara.


The official website of Ngāi Tāmanuhiri has lots of tabs to help learn about the iwi, their work, and their mission.

  • Our Iwi covers the extent of their rohe, marae, and deed of settlement.

Tips: Some websites have .iwi in their url. This tells you that the website belongs to an iwi and likely has Māori knowledge (mātauranga Māori).

Tupapa: Our Stand. Our Story

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

  • Look down the page to find Explore Our Stories.

  • Go to the story on the Journey from Polynesia to understand the significance of Maui in Pacific Culture.

  • The story Arrival in Aotearoa is about the waka and their crew that arrived at Turanganui-a-Kiwa. Horouta was captained by Pawa and Kiwa, Takitimu was captained by Paraki and Parata, and Te Ikaroa-a-Rauru by Maia.

  • Encounters with Cook

    covers the first meetings between tangata whenua (indigenous peoples) and Captain Cook.

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.

Gisborne Photo News

This is a full-text archive of a monthly publication that ran from 3 June 1954 to 5 November 1975.

  • Use the Browse feature or explore A–Z people to find out about people and events during that time.

Sport Gisborne Tairāwhiti

This not-for-profit organisation supports sports, recreation projects, and programmes on the East Coast.

  • Go to the News tab.

  • Then visit their Hall of Fame to read short biographies of local sports legends.

Tairawhiti Museum Online Collection

The museum is at the centre of the promotion of arts, culture, and heritage activities in the Te Tairāwhiti region. Their online collection has archives, photographs, art, taonga Māori, and natural and social history objects.

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.

Manuel Jose — The Spanish Connection

Although quite an old site, this website has records of the Spanish connection with Māori on the East Coast.

  • The tab Manuel has information about Manuel Jose, a trader in Ngāti Porou territory on the East Coast.

  • Whakapapa relates to the descendants of Manuel Jose in Aotearoa.

  • Use the Resources tab to read the Ole Jose book and the Spanish Whakapapa.

Tips: Sometimes websites are not updated regularly, like this site. It is a good idea to read the links in the About section. Also verify the information with reliable sites like Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand that has a biography of Manuel José.

General New Zealand resources

Use these New Zealand websites to find out more about well-known people, iwi, hapū, and the current statistics on the ethnicity, culture, and identity of the population from the East Coast.

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.

  • Go to the section on Māori New Zealanders then select Iwi, for information on tribes like Ngāti Porou.

  • Go to the section on Places, then find East Coast on the map.

  • Go to East Coast region to read about Māori and Pākehā settlement and their impact.

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB)

This website contains over 3,000 biographies of New Zealanders who have ‘made their mark’ on this country. It does not include people who are alive. This site includes around 500 biographies that are in te reo Māori. DNZB is part of Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand and also belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage.

  • Use the names of the people as search words to read about their lives and what they achieved.

  • Or go to Advanced Biographies search, then under Region look for East Coast.

  • This should bring up a list of well-known people from this region.

  • Use the other filters to further narrow down your search.


NZHistory is a great website for information about events, people, and places in New Zealand's history. If we go all the way down the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage.

  • Search the name of a well-known person or group of people from this region to find articles.

Te Kāhui Māngai (Directory of Iwi and Māori Organisations)

Te Kāhui Māngal is owned by Te Puni Kōkiri Ministry of Māori Development. Us the website to find basic information about iwi, hapū, and marae.

  • Use Iwi by Map or Iwi by Local Authority to find Te Tai Rāwhiti.

  • This will lead you to iwi recognised by the Crown, their rohe, and other useful information.

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.

NZ On Screen

This is an online showcase of New Zealand television, film, and music videos. It is especially useful for NZ history queries requiring primary sources.

  • Enter 'East Coast' into the search box.

  • Go down the page to Profiles to view a video about Moana Ngārimu and other well-known people from this region.

  • Or enter the names of well-known people from this region to check if there is a video available.

Tips: Websites that have .com or .co 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 company’s mission and values are.

Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation

Dame Kiri created the foundation to help develop and support young New Zealand singers and musicians to achieve their dreams and aspirations.

  • Look under About to find a page on the life and history of the world-famous opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa.

  • Check out Galleries to see videos and photos of her career highlights.

Tips: When looking for info on a famous person we always recommend trying to find their official website first, as the information is likely to be more accurate than fan sites.

Museum of New Zealand | Te Papa Tongarewa

New Zealand's national museum located in Wellington has an online collection that covers Taonga Māori, Aotearoa New Zealand history, and Pacific cultures. It has a useful search feature to browse.

  • Search for 'Rongowhakaata'.

  • Go to Rongowhakaata to watch lots of videos and stories, such as Te Tiriti — an iwi perspective and interviews with musician Tama Waipara and filmmaker Zak Waipara.

Stats NZ | Tatauranga Aotearoa

Stats NZ is New Zealand's official data agency that collects information about people and organisations through censuses and surveys.

  • Do a search for Gisborne Region to find information on the population demographics, ethnicity, culture, identity, age, and migration to and from this area.


This is a search site that focuses on Aotearoa New Zealand's 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.

  • Look at a range of videos, audio, articles and images, and more about your topic.


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:

SCIS no: 5496180

More about 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

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.

Learn about events of the East Coast