Mahia Peninsula

Mahia Peninsula (Maori: "Māhia" or "Te Māhia"),[1] is located on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island, in the Hawke's Bay region, between the cities of Napier and Gisborne.

Mahia Peninsula
NASA satellite image of the Mahia Peninsula
Mahia Peninsula
Coordinates: 39°09′S 177°54′E
CountryNew Zealand
RegionHawke's Bay
Territorial authorityWairoa
Time zoneUTC+12 (NZST)
  Summer (DST)UTC+13 (NZDT)

Rocket Lab has set up its Launch Complex 1 close to Ahuriri Point at the southern tip of the peninsula to launch its Electron rocket. Test launches of the Electron started in 2017. During regular operations, it will be used as a commercial launcher of small satellites in the range of 135-235 kg, and miniature satellites called CubeSats.[2] New Zealand's first orbital space launch took place from Launch Complex 1 on 21 January 2018.

Mahia is also the location where Jacinda Ardern was proposed to by her partner, Clarke Gayford, on Mokotahi Hill.


The peninsula is 21.7 kilometres (13.5 mi) long and 11.3 km (7 mi) wide. Its highest point is Rahuimokairoa (397 m (1,302 ft)) above sea level. The peninsula was once an island, but now a tombolo joins it to the North Island.[3]

History and culture

Māori history

The peninsula is the tribal area of the Maori iwi Ngāti Rongomaiwahine.[4] The word māhia means "indistinct sound" or "scrofulous swelling".[5] The name "Te Māhia" comes from "Te Māhia-mai-tawhiti" (the sound heard from a distance).

Portland Island ('Waikawa') is a small island off the southern tip of Mahia Peninsula with an unmanned lighthouse. It was named by Kahungunu when he visited there to look for fresh drinking water and only found salt water. Waikawa means "sour water".

In Maori legend, Whatonga who came to New Zealand in search of his grandfather Toi, settled at Mahia. The community these days is still generally a mix of Maori and European.

European history

Shore whaling was briefly important on the Mahia Peninsula. Early whalers had a whaling station on the farm "Kini Kini", sheltered by "Long Point" on the west coast of the peninsula.[6][7]


There are four marae in the Mahia area affiliated with the hapū of the Ngāti Kahungunu iwi:[8][9]


Sheep and cattle farms are an important part for the local community, but tourism is now the peninsula's main industry. Mahia's population swells greatly during the warmer months and in particular during school holidays.

Mahia is well-known for its surf, scuba diving, hiking, and fishing.[10] Morere Hot Springs is 15 minutes away, towards Gisborne. The area is a popular school holiday destination and contains a holiday park dating back to the 1960s. The remaining settlement consists mostly of holiday houses and baches.

From 2007 to 2010 Mahia became known for the presence of Moko the Dolphin.


Te Mahia School is a Year 1-8 co-educational state primary school.[11] It is a decile 1 school with a roll of 58 as of March 2019.[12][13]


  1. Whaanga, Mere (10 February 2015). "Ngāti Rongomaiwahine - Māhia Peninsula". Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  2. Rocket Lab Plans Electron Test Launches This Year. Jeff Foust, Space News. 19 April 2016.
  3. "Destination: Mahia Peninsula". The New Zealand Bay Fisher. Ink IQ. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  4. "Story: Ngāti Rongomaiwahine".
  5. Williams, Herbert W. (1971). "Māhia". A Dictionary of the Maori Language (7th ed.). p. 163.
  6. "Shore-based whaling". Te Ara. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  7. Shortt, Bill (7 February 2016). "Mahia takes the cake". The Gisborne Herald. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  8. "Te Kāhui Māngai directory". Te Puni Kōkiri.
  9. "Māori Maps". Te Potiki National Trust.
  10. "Mahia Travel Guide". Jasons Travel Media.
  11. "Ministry of Education School Profile". Ministry of Education.
  12. "Directory of Schools - as at 3 April 2019". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  13. "Education Review Office Report". Education Review Office.

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