Wairoa is a town and territorial authority district in New Zealand's North Island. The town is the northernmost in the Hawke's Bay region, and is located on the northern shore of Hawke Bay at the mouth of the Wairoa River and to the west of Mahia Peninsula. It is 118 kilometres northeast of Napier, and 92 kilometres southwest of Gisborne. Percentage-wise, it is often known for being New Zealand's most Maori town, with over 62.29% of the population identifying themselves as Maori [2]. At the same time, it is also the largest town within the district of Wairoa.

Wairoa riverbank viewed from SH2 bridge over Wairoa River
Coordinates: 39°02′S 177°22′E
CountryNew Zealand
RegionHawke's Bay
Territorial authorityWairoa District
  MayorCraig Little
  Deputy MayorDenise Eaglesome-Karekare
  Total4,119.18 km2 (1,590.42 sq mi)
 (June 2018)[1]
  Density1.0/km2 (2.7/sq mi)
WebsiteOfficial website

The district has been known historically as 'Te Wairoa'. In keeping with the district's vision of being bilingual by 2040, the use of the phrase 'Te Wairoa' when referring to the district is steadily increasing. Wairoa itself is Māori for "long water", referring to the length of the tranquil river that runs throughout the town.[3]

The Ruakituri River and the Mahia Peninsula are tourist destinations found in Te Wairoa.


Early history

Wairoa was originally a Māori settlement. The ancestral waka (canoe) Tākitimu travelled up the river and landed at Mākeakea, near where Tākitimu meeting house stands today. The Wairoa river (full name: Te Wairoa Hōpūpū Hōnengenenge Matangirau) was an important source of food as well as a transport route for the local iwi (people).

Early settlement in the area included a whaling station and trading post, dealing largely in flax. These establishments offered sufficient income and attraction. Its initial name was Clyde, but this was changed largely to avoid confusion with Clive near Napier and Clyde in the South Island. The north part of the town is called North Clyde. The town rose to prominence during the New Zealand Wars, during which time it was a garrison town.

Modern history

In 1990 Wairoa won the last New Zealand Top Town Final in the original Top Town series and were the reigning champs until the series started again in 2009. Unfortunately due to some confusion with a claim by Greymouth to be the last champions, Wairoa was not eligible for the new top town series and unable to defend their title.[4][5]

In 2014, following the election of a new Council and the appointment of a new Chief Executive, the district embarked on an ambitious programme of attracting novel and high-tech industry to the district in an effort to arrest and reverse gradual population decline and loss of services that the community had been suffering from for the previous 20 years.

A $5M investment by central government in improved medical facilities, and, commencing July 2014, an increased emphasis by the Wairoa District Council on economic development (particularly aimed at encouragement of diversification of agribusiness, ecotourism, digital creative industry attraction, and attraction of new and returning residents) has led to an increasingly positive community view of the district's future.

As a result of these economic development efforts, in 2016, Rocket Lab announced that it was establishing its Orbital Launch Site (known as Launch Complex 1) for its Electron Vehicle on the Mahia Peninsula. The first test launch was in May 2017. The Electron vehicle is capable of delivering satellites into Low Earth Orbit, using innovative New Zealand technology. The section of Te Wairoa coastline along which satisfactory space launch viewing experiences are likely is known as 'Space Coast New Zealand' - a more modest analogue of the Florida Space Coast in the United States. The New Zealand Space Agency has been established to manage New Zealand space treaties and activity.[6]

Wairoa District

Wairoa is a small manufacturing and farming service town. It is the seat of the Wairoa District Council. The Wairoa District covers the northern half of the bay's coast, and extends from Mahia Peninsula to Lake Waikaremoana, and south to the mouth of the Waikare River. The district's population at the June 2018 census was 8,630,[1] and it has a land area of 4,119.18 km2 (1,590.42 sq mi).

Mayor Craig Little JP was elected as Mayor in the 2013 District Elections.[7]


Wairoa has one mainstream secondary school, Wairoa College. This offers many opportunities to those students between the years of 7 - 13 with assessments such as NCEA and WAM (Wairoa Achievement Model). Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Ngati Kahungunu O Te Wairoa also offers secondary school level education (Wharekura).

This town also offers many opportunities for education as it has a wide variety of schools specialising in Maori Culture or Catholic Beliefs along as National Curruculum subjects. Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Ngati Kahungunu O Te Wairoa is the only school in this region taught in the medium of Te Reo Māori. Wairoa Primary, Tiaho, and Frasertown are the Primary schools that offer education to students in years 1 - 6. Ohuka, Te Mahia, Nuhaka, Ruakituri, Mohaka, Waikaremoana, Tiniroto, Tutira, Kotemaori, and St Joseph's School offer education to students in the years 1 - 8. The latter is a special catholic character school.[8]

Wairoa is situated on SH2, which gives connections to Gisborne to the north east and Napier to the south west. It is connected to the Central North Island by SH38 which goes from Wai-O-Tapu via Murupara and Frasertown to Wairoa, and which connects to Rotorua via Te Urewera, and Lake Waikaremoana. It also lies on the Palmerston North-Gisborne railway, though passenger services ceased in 1988 following Cyclone Bola.



Since 2005, Wairoa has been host to the annual Wairoa Māori Film Festival, New Zealand's premiere Maori and indigenous film festival, which has hosted film makers from across the nation and around the world.

In 2015, the festival began to be hosted in part at the newly revitalised Gaiety Theatre, which had recently been fitted out with one of the world's most advanced theatre sound systems.


The township includes a number of marae (meeting grounds) and wharenui (meeting houses) for the local iwi (tribe) of Ngāti Kahungunu and its hapū (sub-tribes).[9][10]

Marae Wharenui Affiliated hapū
Hinemihi Te Poho o Hinemihi Ngāti Hinemihi
Hurumua Hurumua Memorial Hall Ngāi Tānemitirangi
Iwitea Te Poho o Tahu Mātawhaiti
Kihitu Te Rauhina Ngāti Kahu
Ruataniwha Te Poho o Riria Ngāi Te Kapuamātotoru
Taihoa Te Otane Ngāti Kurupakiaka and Te Kāwiti
Tākitimu-Waihirere Tākitimu Wharenui Ngāi Te Apatu and Ngāti Moewhare
Te Mira, Whetū Mārama and Mill Pā Mākoro Ngāti Mākoro
Whaakirangi Whaakirangi Ngāti Mātangirau
Whakakī Whakakī Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Hinepua and Ngāi Te Ipu


Wairoa College is a Year 7–15 co-educational state high school.[11][12] It is a decile 2 school with a roll of 496 as of March 2019.[13][14]

Wairoa Primary School is a Year 1-6 co-educational state primary school.[15] It is a decile 2 school with a roll of 205.[16]

Tiaho Primary School is a Year 1–6 co-educational state primary school.[17] It is a decile 2 school with a roll of 155.[18]

TKKM o Ngati Kahungunu o Te Wairoa is a Year 1-8 co-educational Māori immersion school.[19] It is a decile 1 school with a roll of 107.[20]

St Joseph's School is a Year 1–8 is co-educated state integrated Catholic primary school.[21] It is a decile 3 school with a roll of 75.[22]

Notable people


  1. "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2018 (provisional)". Statistics New Zealand. 23 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018. For urban areas, "Subnational population estimates (UA, AU), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996, 2001, 2006-18 (2017 boundaries)". Statistics New Zealand. 23 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  2. "Which is New Zealand's whitest region?"
  3. "Explore the Hawke's Bay". Jasons Travel Media.
  4. Booker, Jarrod (26 November 2008). "Pride at stake for Top Town's title pretenders". The New Zealand Herald.
  5. "LUSH~Why isn't Wairoa, the 1990 Top Town champions, in the new TVNZ series". RadioLIVE. 25 November 2008.
  6. http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/sectors-industries/space
  7. "Wairoa District Mayor". Local Government Online. 2013.
  8. "Te Kete Ipurangi - Wairoa College". Ministry of Education.
  9. "Te Kāhui Māngai directory". tkm.govt.nz. Te Puni Kōkiri.
  10. "Māori Maps". maorimaps.com. Te Potiki National Trust.
  11. "Official School Website". wairoacollege.org.
  12. "Ministry of Education School Profile". educationcounts.govt.nz. Ministry of Education.
  13. "Directory of Schools - as at 3 April 2019". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  14. "Education Review Office Report". ero.govt.nz. Education Review Office.
  15. "Ministry of Education School Profile". educationcounts.govt.nz. Ministry of Education.
  16. "Education Review Office Report". ero.govt.nz. Education Review Office.
  17. "Ministry of Education School Profile". educationcounts.govt.nz. Ministry of Education.
  18. "Education Review Office Report". ero.govt.nz. Education Review Office.
  19. "Ministry of Education School Profile". educationcounts.govt.nz. Ministry of Education.
  20. "Education Review Office Report". ero.govt.nz. Education Review Office.
  21. "Ministry of Education School Profile". educationcounts.govt.nz. Ministry of Education.
  22. "Education Review Office Report". ero.govt.nz. Education Review Office.
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