Gisborne + The Eastland Region. It's all - Out East

Gisborne - An Historic Walk

You're in the middle of Gisborne city looking for something to do, something that gives the feel of the place, lets you in to some of the district's past, present and future. Why not enjoy a leisurely historic walk through the city taking in rivers, harbour and sea?

Where to begin?

This walk is designed to begin and end anywhere along the route but the Information Centre in Grey Street is a great place to start.

How long does it take?

Depending on how much time you want to spend ambling, delving, sitting and sightseeing, the walk can take anything from one to three hours.

Gisborne Information Centre - There's heaps to see and do at Gisborne's Information Centre itself with displays and mini-golf. Outside in Alfred Cox Park is a Canadian totem pole which was gifted to the people of New Zealand by the Canadian Government in 1969 on the occasion of the bicentenary of the landing of Captain James Cook at Kaiti Beach in 1769.

Alfred Cox Park was included in a parcel of land donated to the Gisborne Borough Council in 1944 by its namesake and member of the 30,000 Club Alfred Cox. It is worth a ramble of its own. If it's autumn when you go, look out for the bountiful olive trees. The fleamarket held at the park early each Saturday morning should not be missed. Not only are all types of produce available but the colourful atmosphere truly reflects the district's cosmopolitan population.

Many Gisborne streets were named after 19th century British statesmen including Grey Street where we begin the walk. Sir George Grey was New Zealand's Colonial Governor in 1853 and NZ Prime Minister from 1877-1879.

Walk out of the Information Centre and head left towards the city and away from Waikanae Beach. Go past the Cosmopolitan Club on the left where once stood the home of Gisborne's own diva Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

Keep going until you reach the main intersection with Gladstone Road from where two different clocks are visible - the old Post Office Clock is the highest and can be seen by looking straight across the intersection and to the right. Gisborne's landmark town clock stands proudly in the middle of Gladstone Road (named after 19th century British Prime Minister William Gladstone). This clock tower was completed in 1934 as a memorial to Reginald Deason Blandford Robinson who was Gisborne Borough Council's town clerk for the 42 years from 1891. The town had been without a clock since severe earthquakes in 1931 and 1932 forced the dismantling of the original two-storeyed brick post office on the site of what is now Heipipi Endeavour Park. While a new electric clock replaced the Post Office clock, the five bells installed on the tower were those which originally did service in the Post Office. Cast of non-corrosive metal by Messrs John Taylor and Co, Longburn, England in 1902, the bells were the same as those found in the House of Commons. In 1998, the town clock was given a new paint job in keeping with its art deco style and new floodlights erected. Its chimes can be heard from around the city.

Turn right and cross the intersection down Gladstone Road. Keep on the right-hand side and look out for the distinctive AMP building opposite, complete with dome added in later years, on the corner of Bright Street (named after British orator and statesman John Bright).

Carry on down Gladstone Road until you arrive at the traffic lights and the intersection with Peel Street. Yes, this street was also named after a British Prime Minister. Robert Peel was responsible for the formation of the police force in Britain, giving his names to Peelers in Ireland and Bobbies in London.

Turn left and cross the intersection, down Peel Street past the TAB and H.B. Williams Memorial Library on your left and the historic Te Rau Press building, complete with verandah overhanging the footpath, across on the right. The library was opened in 1967 after the family of the late Heathcote Beetham Williams gave $70,000 to commemorate his many years of close relationship to Gisborne and the surrounding district. H.B. Williams founded the Turihaua Angus Stud and was involved in many ventures including a 50:50 partnership with movie theatre magnate Robert Kerridge. The generosity of the Williams family continues to benefit the district.

Take a look inside the library at the huge stained glass window completely covering the back end. Unveiled in 1993, the window was created by designer Steve Hutton. It depicts the passage of time and the development of the Tairawhiti (Gisborne) district from volcanic origins to the present day. Midway through the design is an impression of Te Toka a Taiau, a rock symbolising the boundary between the Ngati Porou and Rongowhakaata tribes. It was on this rock that Captain James Cook took part in the first formal greeting between a Maori and European in New Zealand.

Continue down Peel Street towards the river. If time is on your side, take a wander across the bridge to the left and through Kelvin Park to the Tairawhiti Museum which hosts a fascinating collection of Maori and European artefacts and an extensive photographic collection including that of 20th and 19th century Gisborne photographer William Crawford. Part of the museum is Wyllie Cottage, the oldest European house still standing in Gisborne and the Star of Canada, a maritime museum built around the bridgehouse and deck of a ship wrecked on Kaiti reef in 1912. To the right across the bridge is the Gisborne Rose Garden with scores of different colours and varieties, Lawson Field Theatre and Marina Park. In front of the rose garden is a memorial to early women's rights campaigner Margaret Sievwright, of Gisborne, who was one of the founders of the National Council of Women. Unfortunately her surname was engraved in stone misspelt. The memorial was originally a drinking fountain that stood in the middle of Peel Street, near the Gladstone Road intersection.

back to the main walk

Turn left down Palmerston Road for a few metres and follow the pathway down to the Taruheru River. Follow the riverbank walkway alongside the Taruheru River and beside the pohutukawa trees which are at their best around early December.

Seats are plentiful along the walkway. Stop and rest, enjoy the changing tidal flow, watch the ducks or have a bite of lunch. Don't forget to look down too. The First To See The Light emblems, reflecting the city's status as first city in the world to see the light of the new day, are embedded in the edge of the pathway.

Wander along to the semi-circular wooden platform extending out into the river and the compass in the middle of the pathway. From here, take a walk up the stairs to the right to the memorial for Maori leader Wi Pere, a chief of the Rongowhakaata tribe and Member of Parliament from 1884-1902 in the House of Representatives and from 1902 to 1912 in the Legislative Council.

Enjoy the view across the river to the Marina Restaurant, once the ballroom of the Lysnar House next to the museum, and to the confluence of the three rivers - Taruheru, Waimata and the shortest river in the country, the 1200 metre Turanganui.

Continue down the walkway which soon veers to the right past the band rotunda and towards the Gladstone Road bridge and the harbour. Across the Turanganui the marble lions stand guard at the Cenotaph erected in honour of those who fought and died in overseas wars.

Night adds a unique element to the walk. Stand at the point where the three rivers meet and marvel at the lighting technology which sees different coloured lights beamed across each of the three bridges. The system was installed in 1997 and marked the first time the state-of-the-art Irideon halogen lamps had been used in such a way in the world. It was the first time a public edifice had been lit with them in Australasia.

Walk under the Gladstone Road bridge and decide whether to keep with the peace and serenity of the river and beach walk (Option A) or, if pressed for time, whether a quick scoot back through the city is more in order (Option B).

Either way, take a walk up the pathway and across the road to Heipipi Endeavour Park, part of the original purchase of land for the township of Turanga, as Gisborne was first known. Government buildings stood in this area from the early days. Gisborne's court house is beside the park. In 1902 an imposing two-storeyed brick post office was built complete with clock tower, taken down after severe earthquakes caused damage in 1931 and 1932. The building itself was demolished after the 1966 earthquake made it unsafe. The open space left was named Endeavour Park at the Cook Bicentenary in 1969 and the site's original name of Heipipi was restored at the request of the Maori in 1990. This was marked by the construction of a unique carved canoe prow, Te Tauihu Turanga Whakamana. The site was originally named Heipipi after early Maori settler Matuatonga came across a pipi shell while digging a well for his wife Hamo-Ki-Te-Rangi.

Option A

Back on the walkway, the harbour is in full view and the regenerating Kaiti Hill stands as a guardian to the city. On the lower left of the hill and above what was the freezing works (now used for log marshalling by Port Gisborne Ltd), stands a memorial to the freezing workers who fought in World War 1. It was paid for with the remainder of a patriotic fund which local freezing workers subscribed to during the war to provide comforts for the men serving overseas.

The harbour was formed in the late 1920s when the Turanganui River was divided lengthways with the construction of a diversion wall and dredging of the inner harbour basin. The inner harbour development now boasts a marina, boat launching ramp along with restaurants and cafes one of the three-pointed brick building The Works, was once part of the original freezing works complex and is now home to Longbush Wines.

As you continue along the riverbank and look across to the port you can observe the original landing place in NZ of Captain James Cook in 1769. A granite monument marks the actual spot, now reclaimed land and a walkway leads up to the Kaiti Hill lookout.

Continue down the walkway. Line fishing is a popular and successful activity along this riverbank anytime of the day and night. At the seaward end is a plaque commemorating the first official sale of land in the district. Gisborne's first trader John Williams Harris purchased just over an acre of land on the west bank of the Turanganui River from chiefs Turangi, Kahutia and others on June 30, 1831. Here he erected what is believed to be the first European-style house and store.

On the Reads Quay riverbank opposite Childers Road is a plaque marking where the old passenger wharf once stood. Captain George Read was known as the uncrowned king of Poverty Bay because of his extensive interests and power. In 1838 he bought land from Kahutia for his store and jetty on the township side of the Turanganui River near the junction of the Waimata and Taruheru rivers. In 1871 he lent money to put up the first government wharf near the mouth of the Waikanae Stream.

Turn left out on to Customhouse Street where the home of the restored steam engine Wa165 into which volunteers have donated thousands of hours of time.

Cross the road and continue on to the end of the pathway past the statue of Captain Cook. Captain James Cook first landed in New Zealand in October 1769. The first 'hongi' between Maori and European took place on a rock in the river approximately opposite where the statue now stands.

Take a wander to the left either across the grass or through the magnificent Moreton Bay fig trees and native plantings down to Waikanae Beach. Look out for the Young Nick's Statue at the rivermouth which commemorates Captain Cook's young crew member Nicholas Young - reputedly the first on board the Endeavour to sight land in New Zealand. The majestic white cliffs of Young Nick's Head, also known as Te Kuri a Paoa, at the southern end of Poverty Bay also bear his name. Hundreds of people flock to Waikanae Beach each day in the summertime for safe swimming.

Walk past the Waikanae Beach Holiday Park and turn right into Grey Street. Follow the road up past the large Logan Print building on the left, converted from a grain and fertiliser store, and the railway station on the right, back to the Information Centre.

Option B

From Heipipi Endeavour Park, turn left down Customhouse Street to Childers Road and then turn right.

On the corner opposite is the architecturally - interesting Poverty Bay Club, which is about a century old. Continue down Childers Road, named after British war secretary Hugh Childers who served under Gladstone in the early 1880s, to the corner of Peel Street, where Briscoes is currently sited. This was once the site of the ornate Gisborne Opera House built in 1912 and demolished in 1968 after being declared structurally unsound from the 1966 earthquake. Its construction marked the first time a concrete mixer was used in Gisborne. The labourers of the time were unimpressed and staged a strike of several days in protest.

At the next corner the panels commemorating those who served in the Boer War are hung on the RSA building. The building also has a stunning stained glass window designed by local artist Graeme Mudge which reflects the army, navy and air force involvement in the world wars. Mudge is responsible for numerous public murals.

Turn left at Grey Street intersection and back down to the Information Centre.