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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.


page vii


This survey of the historical highlights of Poverty Bay and the East Coast was prepared in response to the Government's request that the Poverty Bay-East Coast Centennial Council should, if possible, include a publication of this character among the district's memorials in connection with the centenary of the establishment of British sovereignty in New Zealand.

The period covered is not restricted to that which the national centennial celebrations served to commemorate, viz. 1840 to 1940. No history of this important portion of the Dominion would be complete if it did not contain an account of Captain Cook's doings along, and upon, its shores in 1769, and some particulars concerning visits made by others prior to the arrival of the first white settlers. Poverty Bay and the East Coast share with only a few other localities the distinction of having attracted small groups of Britishers, interspersed with Americans and other foreigners, some years before Lieut.-Governor Hobson reached the Bay of Islands in 1840 to treat with the native chiefs. In regard to some matters, the material has been brought down to a date later than 1940.

To undertake the task of gathering suitable information for the projected survey, a small committee was set up by the district centennial council in 1937. It was hoped that the fruits of its labours might become available in book form not later than October, 1940, the month fixed for the holding of the local celebrations. However, when the war situation gravely deteriorated in June, 1940, the council decided to defer not only the various commemorative functions which it had arranged to hold (including a re-enactment of Captain Cook's historic landing at Boat Harbour, Gisborne), but also the publication of the district history.

The matter was not reviewed until 1946. It was then resolved to cancel the celebrations, make a grant of £1,000 towards the cost of a new bathing pavilion on Waikanae Beach (Gisborne), and reinstate the grant of £400 towards the cost of producing the historical survey. Meantime, some of the members of the historical committee had left the district and others had resigned; consequently, the original plan with reference to the compilation of the survey could not be carried out. Negotiations were then entered into with the writer to make a survey available from his extensive collection of records.

No attempt is made to give a substantial outline of the Maori history of Poverty Bay and the East Coast; this would require page viii a volume to itself. What is more, the task could be undertaken satisfactorily only by a Maori research scholar possessed of a wealth of information and gifted with the ability to sift only what is worthy of credence. A great deal has been published on this important subject by Europeans as well as by Maoris. How widely the results of their researches differ may be gathered from extracts which are quoted in this survey.

The designation “East Coast,” which forms part of the title of this volume, was applied by the early whalers and traders to that portion of the terrain which lies between Mahia Peninsula and Hicks Bay. To-day, it is restricted by the residents to the section lying between Poverty Bay and Hicks Bay and, most frequently, it is used in the shortened form, “The Coast.” Events that have occurred in all the districts between Mahia and Hicks Bay are dealt with in this compilation. Interpositions by the author are shown in square brackets.

It is not possible to mention individually all who provided the compiler with information in the course of his inquiries, which extended over nearly forty years. Many of them have passed on, but their eagerness and enthusiasm will not readily be forgotten by him. Much was owed to prominent Maori leaders as well as to descendants of early pakeha residents. Some special acknowledgments appear in the text. Among the most obliging helpers were His Majesty's consular representatives in Spain, Portugal, Holland, France and the United States of America; the British Museum authorities; the Rt. Hon. W. J. Jordan (High Commissioner for New Zealand in London); members of the staff of the Historical branch of the Department of Internal Affairs; the staffs of the British Admiralty and the Public Records Office in London; those of the Mitchell Library (Sydney), Commonwealth Library (Canberra), Alexander Turnbull Library (Wellington), Hocken Library (Dunedin), General Assembly Library (Wellington), the public libraries in the cities and some of the smaller centres and, in particular, the staff of the Turanganui Library in Gisborne.

Invaluable assistance was given by Judge H. Carr, of the Maori Affairs Department, Gisborne, and his staff; the officers of other State Departments; W. M. Jenkins, M.B.E. (Town Clerk of Gisborne) and other borough officials; the executive officers of the other district local bodies; and also those of various public institutions. Special thanks are due to the directors of the Mitchell Library in Sydney for releasing a photostat of the original of Captain Cook's holograph notes concerning his doings in Poverty Bay and on the East Coast and allowing this hitherto unpublished, but most important, material to be used. To Mr. page ix Stanley Muir the author was greatly indebted for his courtesy in placing at his disposal the earliest files of The Poverty Bay Hearald (now The Gisborne Herald).

This outline of the district's history is dedicated to the cherished memory of those brave pioneer who were required to risk—and, in a number of cases, to lay down—their lives during the troublous times which preceded the establishment of law and order in accordance with British principles in Poverty Bay and on the East Coast, and also to the equally honoured memory of their loyal friends among the Maoris, many of whom also fell victims at the hands of rebellious sections among their kinsfolk.

J. A. Mackay

116 Iranui Road, Gisborne, New Zealand
31st December, 1949