Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.
The site of the town of Gisborne belonged conjointly to the Rongowhakaata and T'Aitanga-a-Mahaki tribes. In March, 1868, the nucleus (741 acres) was bought by the Crown. It was bounded on the east by the Turanganui River, on the north by the Taruheru River, on the west by a line which, to-day, marks Lytton Road, and, on the seaward side, by an irregular line along the edge of Waikanae swamp. As the chiefs feared that Samuel Locke (the Crown Agent) might prefer to negotiate for Kaiti, they reduced their price from £20,000 to £2,000. When the Crown Grants Commission issued the title as to native ownership (5/8/1869), the agreement was found to be missing. It was surmised that it had been burnt when Major Biggs's home was destroyed by the rebels in the previous November. No deposit had been paid.
A fresh agreement was made on 9 August, 1869, between W. S. Atkinson, R.M., and the following natives: Riparata Kahutia, Raharuhi Rukupo, Mokena Pakura (or Kohere), Hori Karaka, Renata Ngarangi, Eparaima te Kura, Pita Ngunu, Rota Waipaia, Hirini te Kani, Rutene Kuiata, Kingi Hori (“King George,” a nephew of Te Kani-a-Takirau), Tamihana Ruatapu, Henare Ruru, Wi Pere, Hoera Kapuaroa, Keita Waere (Kate Wyllie), and Paora Parau.
The block was surveyed by Alexander Munro (a nephew of Sir D. Munro). He was assisted by Samuel Begg (who became a prominent artist on The London Illustrated News). The township was named Gisborne in honour of the Hon. William Gisborne, M.L., Colonial Secretary in the Fox Ministry. For many years some of the old residents—pakehas and Maoris alike—would not drop the native designation Turanganui. A number of the best business sites were disposed of at the first auction sale, which was held at Napier in April, 1870. The highest figure for a quarter-acre lot in the inner area was paid for the Masonic Hotel corner (£51). Next highest price was £50 for the Union Bank site. Good's Corner fetched £40. The site on which McKee's Buildings stand brought only £19, as it was considered “rather out of the way.”
Miller's Corner was given to Major Ropata, and a four-roomed cottage was placed on it for him by the Government. In April, 1875, he sold the property to A. Blair for £900. Mokena Kohere was presented with the Herald site. Plenty of good sections were available at low prices in June, 1874. The Opera House site was then priced at only £23, the Power Board office site at £22, and Townley's Corner at £29. In 1875 Captain Read offered W. Dean Lysnar 10 acres, running from Gladstone Road to Palmerston Road, at £25 per acre.
The European population of Gisborne in 1874 was 554. By 1886 it had grown to 2,194. In 1906 there were 5664 European residents in the town, which then included Kaiti and Whataupoko. For 1926 the figures (including Mangapapa and Outer Kaiti) were: Europeans, 12,848; natives, 282. The 1945 census showed: Europeans, 14,052; natives, 713. Within the “Gisborne urban area,” which comprises the borough and portions of Cook County regarded as suburban to Gisborne, the 1945 aggregate was 16,984 (inclusive of 873 natives), plus 3 per cent. as an allowance for residents absent on war activities. In 1948 the estimated population of the combined area was 18,500.
The area of Gisborne in 1949 was 3,324 acres. In 1876 Waikanae had been added. Kaiti (valued at a shade over £11 per acre in 1885) and Whataupoko joined in 1904. They were followed in 1924 by the more populous portions of Mangapapa and Outer Kaiti. Mangapapa had become a town district on 8 May, 1914, when its population was 1,200, and its capital value £192,763. W. J. McCliskie was chairman, and H. E. Hill the clerk. The merger poll was carried with only 12 votes to spare.
The capital value of all rateable property within the borough in 1877 was £150,802. By 1908 the figure had risen to £1,001,176, in 1917 to £2,314,5001 and in 1927 to £5,657,019. On account of the world-wide depression, values had then to be reduced, and, in 1946, the valuations were: Unimproved, £1,136,997; improvements, £3,259,050; capital value, £4,396,047. The net capital value in 1949 was £6,899,437.
Borough rates for 1877–8 (six months only) came to £669. In 1922 the figures were: General rates, £20,990; special, £24,871; total, £45,861. The aggregate for 1948–9 was £83,557 (including general £34,029; special rates, £34,925; hospital rate, £9,239; Catchment Board rate, £2,368).
The borough debt at 31 March, 1915, stood at £354,349. On 31 March, 1949, the net aggregate was £484,500. Most of the borrowing took place between 1905 and 1926—£255,000 between 1905 and 1914, and £325,000 between 1914 and 1926.
Hon. William Gisborne (after whom Gisborne was named) was born in 1825. He was a son of Thomas John Gisborne, of Home Hall, Bakewell, Derbyshire, and Sarah, daughter of J. A. Krehmer, St. Petersburg. Educated at Harrow, he was only 17 years old when he migrated to South Australia. In 1847 he moved to New Zealand and was appointed private secretary to Lieutenant-Governor Eyre of New Munster. A few months later he became clerk to the Executive Council. In 1848 he was appointed Commissioner of Crown Lands for New Ulster, in 1850 Native Titles Commissioner, in 1854 Under-Secretary for Lands, and in 1856 Under-Secretary in the Colonial Secretary's Office. In 1861 he married Caroline, daughter of Assistant Commissary-General Bridger. He was given a seat in the Legislative Council in 1869, and appointed Colonial Secretary. In 1871 he was elected unopposed as M.H.R. for Egmont, and, in 1877, whilst he was in London, he was returned for Totara (Westland). For a short period in 1879 he was Minister for Lands, Mines and Immigration. In 1881 he resettled in England as successor to his brother in the possession of several country homes. He became heir to his cousin (Sir Thomas Evans) in 1892, and took over Allestree Hall, Derby. In 1886 he published Rulers and Statesmen of New Zealand, and in 1889 The Colony of New Zealand. He died on 7 January, 1898.