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Bay of Plenty, New ZealandTauranga History

Tauranga | Regional Information | Activity Highlights | Scenic Highlights | History

Guarding the entrance to Tauranga Harbour in the Bay of Plenty, Mauao (Mount Maunganui) was the landing place of the Takitimu waka about 1290 AD.

Tauranga History Overview

The name Tauranga is a Maori name having the meaning of safe anchorage or resting place. The earliest known settlers were Maoris who arrived in Tauranga from the Takitimu and the Mataatua waka in the 12th century. Tauranga is rich with New Zealand history; it was also a site of the New Zealand Wars between the British Empire and the local Maori tribes.

Gate Pa

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Ceremonial Maori Waka, New Zealand
Ceremonial Maori Waka
Photographer: Fay Looney
(www.faylooney.com)

The most notable of the battles of the New Zealand Wars to be fought around Tauranga was the battle of Gate Pa.

Gate Pa was the name of a Maori Pa or fortress built in 1864 only five kilometres for the main British base of Camp Te Papa at Tauranga. Chief Rawiri Puhirake of the Ngai Te Rangi tribe through his support behind the King Movement against the British, consequently he expected a British attack, so he constructed Gate Pa for protection.

When the British didn't attack he began sending taunts declaring he had built a road from the British camp to the pa "so that the British would not be too tired to fight".

When the British forces finally attacked they shelled the pa but were repulsed with heavy losses (largely from their own cannon fire), despite an overwhelming advantage in numbers (over 1,600 British soldiers against about 200 defenders). Maori forces departed during the night, and two months later were overcome at a partly finished pa at Te Ranga, a short distance inland.

Early trading

One of Tauranga's first European visitors was Captain James Cook, who in November 1769, sailed past Mauao. James Cook's explorations paved the way for European settlement.

Traders in flax were active in the Bay of Plenty during the 1830s; some were transient, others married local women and settled permanently. The first permanent trader was James Farrow, who travelled to Tauranga in 1829, obtaining flax fibre for Australian merchants in exchange for muskets and gunpowder.

Farrow acquired a land area of 0.5 acres in 1838 at Otumoetai Pa from the chiefs Tupaea, Tangimoana and Te Omanu, this is the earliest authenticated land purchase in the Bay of Plenty.

Missionaries

During the 1800s, missionaries established mission houses in Tauranga these missions included competing Catholic and Anglican missions.

The Church Missionary Society first visited Tauranga in 1826 on the vessel Herald. By 1835 the society had established a mission station at Te Papa, and a permanent mission presence was established in 1847, when the Te Papa Mission House (known today as The Elms) was completed.

Tauranga City

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Swim between the flags, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
Bay of Plenty Beach
Photographer: Legend Photography
(www.andybelcher.com)

Tauranga's prosperity was slowed due to land wars with the Maori in the 1860s. In fear of their lives, many settlers abandoned their land and left.

Tauranga struggled through to the 1880s where the population dropped to a little over 1,000 people. The arrival of George Vesey Stewart from Ireland in 1882 brought hope to the town. Tauranga was made a borough and Mr Stewart made the first Mayor of the town.

Over the 1900s water supply and electricity were introduced and the town began to prosper. In 1950 Tauranga was chosen as an export port for the Bay of Plenty creating many jobs and increasing the population drastically.

At the 2006 census, Tauranga City held the resident population of 103,635.

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