One of the relatively rare places in New Zealand that hasn’t changed hugely in the past decade or so, Gisborne is an attractively located city that catches the first rays of sunshine in New Zealand each morning. Home to around 35,000 people, the population is nearly half Maori, compared with 15% nationally. Therefore the Te Maro Statue at Ruatanuika Lookout is fitting place to start this post, an impressive 10m high, 9 tonne steel disc installed in 2019. It represents Te Maro, who was shot dead by Captain Cook when he first landed in New Zealand on 9 October 1769.

Captain Cook is an understandably hugely controversial figure here, and for most Maori given what happened after he visited New Zealand, and impact of the many other Europeans who followed. At the Puhi Kai Iti Cook Landing Site National Historic Reserve below Ruatanuika Lookout is a traditional style memorial to Captain Cook, which when I visited in July 2020 was surrounded by security fencing after recent protests. By the memorial are sculptures to represent Te Ikaroa, the waka captained by Māia Poroaki from Hawaiki to Tūranganui-a-Kiwa. Māia built his whare wānangā, place of learning, in this place.

The reserve is right next to Eastland Port, the second largest log exporting port in New Zealand (after Tauranga). Seemingly every other vehicle on SH35, which heads north from Gisborne around the East Cape, was a logging truck.

Behind the port is Kaiti Hill, which offers wonderful views of the city below, and Poverty Bay in the distance.

On the way up the hill I passed by a WW1 memorial erected in 1923, in a similar style to the Captain Cook landing memorial which was built in 1906. At the top there used to be an infamous (and often attacked) statue of Captain Cook, which was removed in 2018 and is intended to move to the Tairawhiti Museum. The statue was a copy of a statue erected in Auckland, sculptured in Sydney by an Italian, which looked nothing like portraits of him…

Tairawhiti Museum is a great regional museum, on a prime riverfront location. The attractive glass windows are from the two-story wheel-house of the Star of Canada, a cargo steamer that was wrecked nearby in 1912, which was saved and moved to the museum.

One of my favourite things in Gisborne was the bridge for the Gisborne City Vintage Railway, which basically only runs for cruise ship passengers. As I visited soon after the Covid-19 lockdown lifted there weren’t any cruise ships around so it was relatively safe to cross on foot during the day. It wasn’t quite as safe when I crossed in driving rain and wind the previous night…

The bridge is the shortest way from the palm tree lined town side of the harbour over to the waterfront, home to many restaurants, some heritage buildings and boats, and some rather flash new toilets.

A couple of photos taken from the plane shortly before landing into Gisborne.

To finish with a couple of photos from a trip up SH35 to Tokomaru Bay and beyond, demonstrating the beautiful coastal scenery, and challenges of keeping the road open!

Author: jontycrane

Leave a Reply