Gisborne District

The Gisborne District (Māori: Te Tairāwhiti or Te Tai Rāwhiti) is an area of northeastern New Zealand governed by the Gisborne District Council. A unitary authority (with the combined powers of a district and regional council), it is also known as the Gisborne Region.[3] It is named after its largest settlement, the city of Gisborne. The region is also commonly referred to as the East Coast.[4]

Gisborne District
Te Tairāwhiti
Official logo of Gisborne District
Location of Gisborne District
Country New Zealand
RegionGisborne Region
Territorial authorityGisborne District Council
SeatGisborne City
 • MayorRehette Stoltz
 • Deputy MayorJosh Wharehinga
 • Territorial8,355 km2 (3,226 sq mi)
 (June 2020)[1]
 • Territorial50,700
 • Density6.1/km2 (16/sq mi)
 • Urban
Area code(s)06
HDI (2017)0.872[2]
very high · 16th

The region is commonly divided into the East Cape and Poverty Bay. It is bounded by mountain ranges to the west, rugged country to the south, and faces east onto the Pacific Ocean.

Name and historyEdit

Prior to the late 19th century, the area was known as Tūranga. However, as the Gisborne town site was laid out in 1870, the name changed to Gisborne, after the Colonial Secretary William Gisborne, and to avoid confusion with the town of Tauranga.[5]

The region was formerly known as the East Coast, although the region is often divided into the East Coast proper (or East Cape), north of the city, and Poverty Bay, the area including and surrounding the city. The region is also sometimes referred to as the East Cape, although that also refers specifically to the promontory at the northeastern extremity. More recently, it has been called Eastland, although that can also include Ōpōtiki in the eastern Bay of Plenty to the northwest, and Wairoa to the south.[4]

Its Māori name Te Tai Rāwhiti means the Coast of the Sunrise,[6] reflecting the fact that it is the first part of the New Zealand mainland to see the sun rise. Gisborne District Council styles the name as Te Tairāwhiti.


The region is located in the northeastern corner of the North Island. It ranges from the Wharerata Hills in the south, which divide it from Wairoa District in Hawke's Bay, to Lottin Point in the north. The western boundary runs along the Raukumara Range, which separates it from Ōpōtiki District. In the southwest, its boundary runs along the western edge of Te Urewera.

It is sparsely inhabited and isolated, with small settlements mainly clinging to small bays along the eastern shore, including Tokomaru Bay and Tolaga Bay. Its population is 50,700 (June 2020).[1] Three-quarters of the population – 37,000 (June 2020)[1] – lives in the city of Gisborne. No other settlements have a population of over 1000; the largest are the towns of Tolaga Bay and Ruatoria, each with populations of over 800 in 2001.

Inland, the land is rough, predominantly forested, hill country. A spine of rough ridges dominates the centre of the region, culminating in the impressive bulk of the 1752 metre Mount Hikurangi in Waiapu Valley in the region's northeast. Hikurangi is the fifth highest mountain in the North Island, and the highest that is not a volcano. Regarded as sacred by Māori, there is some justification to the claims that this is the first mountain to see the sun in summer.

The region's population has higher than the national average proportion of Māori – over 50% in some areas – and maintains strong ties to both Māori tradition and the iwi and marae structure. The predominant iwi are Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri and Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki.


Gisborne District Council is a unitary territorial authority, which means that it performs the functions of a regional council as well as those of a territorial authority (a district or city). It includes a mayor, 13 elected councillors,[7] an appointed chief executive officer, 4 department managers and approximately 250 staff. The district council and main administration centre is located in Fitzherbert Street, in the city of Gisborne.[8] The area it governs is constituted as both the Gisborne District and the Gisborne Region.[3]

Gisborne District Council was created as part of a major nationwide reform of local government in 1989. It replaced the councils of Gisborne City, Cook County, Waiapu County and Waikohu County, East Cape United Council, East Cape Catchment Board and Regional Water Board, East Coast Pest Destruction Board, two harbour boards, and several noxious plants authorities and recreation reserve boards.[3] It was the only unitary authority in New Zealand until three others were created in 1992.


The subnational gross domestic product (GDP) of the Gisborne region was estimated at NZ$2.16 billion in the year to March 2019, 0.7% of New Zealand's national GDP. The regional GDP per capita was estimated at $44,004 in the same period.[9]


The region is sheltered by high country to the west and has a dry, sunny climate. It has a yearly average of 2,200 sunshine hours. The annual rainfall varies from about 1000mm near the coast to over 2500mm in higher inland country. Typical maxima range from 20 to 28 °C in summer and 10-16 °C in winter. Minima vary from 10 to 16 °C in summer to 0-8 °C in winter.

Climate data for Gisborne
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 24.9
Average low °C (°F) 13.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 54
Source: NIWA Climate Data[10]


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [11][12][13]

Gisborne Region had a population of 47,517 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 3,864 people (8.9%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 3,018 people (6.8%) since the 2006 census. There were 16,410 households. There were 23,394 males and 24,126 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.97 males per female. Of the total population, 11,283 people (23.7%) were aged up to 15 years, 8,766 (18.4%) were 15 to 29, 20,124 (42.4%) were 30 to 64, and 7,344 (15.5%) were 65 or older. Figures may not add up to the total due to rounding.

Ethnicities were 58.1% European/Pākehā, 52.9% Māori, 4.5% Pacific peoples, 2.8% Asian, and 1.4% other ethnicities. People may identify with more than one ethnicity.

The percentage of people born overseas was 9.7, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 48.2% had no religion, 36.4% were Christian, and 7.1% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 5,382 (14.9%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 7,944 (21.9%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $25,900. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 17,064 (47.1%) people were employed full-time, 5,451 (15.0%) were part-time, and 1,872 (5.2%) were unemployed.[13]

In the 2013 census, 73.0% of the population could speak in one language only, 16.2% in two languages and 1.1% in three or more languages.[11]

Urban areasEdit

Gisborne, with a population of 37,000,[1] is the only urban area in the district with a population over 1,000. It is home to 73.0% of the district's population.

Other towns and settlements in the Gisborne district include:

2007 earthquakeEdit

A map of population density in the Gisborne Region at the 2006 census

At 8:55 pm (NZDT) on 20 December 2007, the Gisborne region was hit by an earthquake of Richter magnitude 6.8, centred in the Hikurangi Trench which is a part of the Hikurangi Margin. The earthquake was situated 50 km southeast of Gisborne at a depth of 40 km.[14] Mercalli intensities of 7-8 were experienced, with three buildings substantially collapsed in the central business district and others experiencing some structural damage. One death was reported (a heart attack of an elderly woman, sustained during the quake) plus minor injuries.[15]


Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival 2020.

There are a number of notable creative people from the Gisborne region including writer Witi Ihimaera, opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and actor George Henare.

An annual arts festival began in 2019 called Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival. In 2020 this included a series of light installations along the river in Gisborne city showcasing ten local artists.[16]


The region is represented in rugby union by the East Coast Rugby Football Union and the Poverty Bay Rugby Football Union.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d "Population estimate tables - NZ.Stat". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  2. ^ "Sub-national HDI - Area Database - Global Data Lab". Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "The Local Government (Gisborne Region) Reorganisation Order 1989" (PDF). New Zealand Gazette. 9 June 1989. pp. 2328 ff. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  4. ^ a b Soutar, Monty (13 July 2012). "East Coast region – Overview". Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  5. ^ Soutar, Monty. "East Coast places". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  6. ^ Cowan, James (1926). The Māoris in the Great War. pp. 179–80. Retrieved 7 June 2014.
  7. ^ "Local Government Commission : Determination of representation arrangements to apply for the election of the Gisborne District Council to be held on 12 October 2013" (PDF). Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  8. ^ "Gisborne District Council » Contact us". Gisborne District Council. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  9. ^ "Regional gross domestic product: Year ended March 2019 | Stats NZ". Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  10. ^ "Climate Data". NIWA. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
  11. ^ a b "2013 Census tables about a place: Gisborne District". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  12. ^ "1996 Census of Population and Dwellings – Census Night Population". Statistics New Zealand. 28 February 1997. Archived from the original on 13 February 2016. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. Gisborne Region (05). 2018 Census place summary: Gisborne Region
  14. ^ "GeoNet – New Zealand Earthquake Report". 20 December 2007. Archived from the original on 22 December 2007. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  15. ^ Binning, Elizabeth (21 December 2007). "Quake damage extensive as massive clean-up begins". The New Zealand Herald. NZPA. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  16. ^ Peters, Mark. "Arts festival launched". Gisborne Herald. Retrieved 9 October 2020.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 38°39′S 178°00′E / 38.650°S 178.000°E / -38.650; 178.000