Tairawhiti Museum and Art Gallery
Rich in Gisborne, East Coast history
Rich in Gisborne, East Coast history Poverty Bay - taonga maori
Tairawhiti Museum and Art Gallery Rich in Gisborne, East Coast history

Poverty Bay - taonga maori





 What is the admission fee?

 Entry is by $2 for locals and $5 for other visitors. Friends of theMuseum members and children 12 and under have free admission. 

 How long will I need to have a good look around the museum?

 We recommend between an hour and an hour and a half for a really good look around.


 I was wondering if the museum wanted this old thing I found under our house?

 All items that may be of significance would need to be assessed. For all enquiries regarding these matters please contact  or visit the Collections page.


 Do you have any photos of what Gisborne used to look like?

 There are numerous photos in our photo archives. Please contact Dudley L Meadows for further enquiries or visit the Photographic page.


 Do you have group tours available?

 By appointment they can be organised. Contact  for any further enquiries you may have.


 Do you sell greenstone items?

 Our Museum shop has a wide range of greenstone (jade). Also available are cards, bone carvings and kete. To find out more about our Museum shop please visit the shop page.




 What is the meaning of Turanga-nui-a-Kiwa?

 Turanga-nui-a-Kiwa is the original Maori place name for the Gisborne area. Its general meaning is “the great standing place of Kiwa”. Kiwa was a leading figure aboard the Maori ancestral canoe, Takitimu, which made landfall in this region around 1450AD.


 Who was the first European settler in this district?

 John William Harris is credited as being the first permanent European settler in the Gisborne area. He landed in Poverty Bay in 1831 at the age of 23, to set up a trading station for the Montefiore Brothers of Sydney, Australia. Within a few weeks of landing he bought a piece of land on the west-side of the Turanganui River near the Waikanae Creek. There he erected the district’s first European style house and store. He married Tukura, a woman of high rank from the Ngati Oneone iwi (tribe), and had two sons, Edward Francis (1834) and Henry (1837). After Tukura’ death, he remarried and had two more children, and shifted to Auckland where he died in 1872.


 What is the meaning of Tairawhiti?

 Tairawhiti is the customary Maori name used to describe the coastal region, generally between the Mahia Peninsula and East Cape. It means – “the tides that are shone upon.”


 Where did the place name Gisborne originate from?

 The name Gisborne was adopted in honour of the Hon. William Gisborne, Colonial Secretary in the Fox Ministry. The name was adopted in 1872 to replace the name Turanga, partly due to the fact that Turanga (shortened form of Turanga-nui-a-Kiwa) was often confused with Turangi and Tauranga.


 Who are the local iwi (tribes) of the East Coast Tairawhiti District, and where are they located?

 The main iwi or tribes of the East Coast Tairawhiti District are Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki (Gisborne, Te Karaka, Whatatutu, Puha, Ngatapa, Matawai, Patutahi), Rongowhakaata (Gisborne, Matawhero, Manutuke), Ngai Tamanuhiri (Muriwai, Maraetaha), Ngati Oneone (Kaiti, Wainui, Okitu), Ngati Konohi (Whangara-mai-tawhiti, Pouawa, Pakarae), Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti (Tolaga Bay, Waihau Bay, Anaura Bay, Mangatuna), Ngati Porou (Te Toka-a-Taiau to Potikirua).


 Where did Captain Cook first step ashore?

 The place where Captain Cook first stepped ashore in New Zealand in 1769 is marked by a memorial near the mouth of the Turanganui River, Gisborne. The area is now the Cook Landing Site National Historic Reserve, and bears very little resemblance to what it looked like in 1769. A unique rock formation called “the boat harbour” once marked the approach to shore but this, along with the original foreshore, has been lost to reclamation and wharf developments and is now covered by port buildings and warehouses.


 What is the population of Gisborne City, including the East Coast District to
Te Araroa?

 The latest population figures estimate between 39,000 to 41,000 people. However this figure increases with the summer holiday influx.


 Who was the first Mayor of Gisborne?

 The first Mayor of Gisborne was William Crawford, who is also remembered as a brewer, photographer, shopkeeper, town fire brigade superintendent, and councillor. He was elected in 1877 by 95 votes to 38, at the age of thirty-three.


 What is the main trade or industry of the East Coast Tairawhiti region?

 Sheep and wool were the traditional industries. More recently, wine producing, horticulture and forestry have become well established in this region.


 What year was Wyllie Cottage built, and who were the Wyllies?

 Wyllie Cottage, which stands in the museum grounds, was built in 1872. It is the oldest surviving European style house on the eastern bank of the Taruheru River in Gisborne. The house was built for James Ralston Wyllie, his wife Keita Wyllie and their children. James was an immigrant from Scotland while Keita’s mother was Maori and her father, Thomas Halbert, a Pakeha.


 What is Te Toka-a-Taiau and why is it so special?

 Te Toka-a-Taiau was a sacred rock, which once stood in the Turanganui River. Blasted by the Marine Department in 1877, to clear the river for port and harbour developments, the rock was once a mooring place for waka, an exceptional fishing spot, a denizen of tribal taniwha, and the first place in New Zealand where Maori and European made first contact. The rock is also a key boundary marker between the Turanga iwi and Ngati Porou.


 What are the names of the four rivers in the greater Gisborne area?

 Taruheru, Waimata, Waipaoa and the Turanganui – which is incidentally the shortest river in the Southern Hemisphere.


 What and where is the small settlement featured on the film “Whale Rider”?

 Whangara or its fuller name; Whangara-mai-tawhiti. This is a small village, which lays approximately 25 kilometres north of Gisborne.


 Why did Captain Cook name this area, “Poverty Bay”?

 Because when he first visited in 1769, he wrote in his diary, “At 6 am we weigh’d and stood out of the bay which I have named Poverty Bay because it afforded us no one thing we wanted.” This was made in reference to Cook and the crew of the Endeavour not having the time or opportunity to replenish water, food or wood supplies.