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For other uses of Gisborne, see Gisborne (disambiguation).
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Gisborne District

Te Tai Rāwhiti
Region of New Zealand
Location of Gisborne District
Country  New Zealand
Region Gisborne Region
Territorial authority Gisborne District Council
Seat Gisborne
 • Territorial 8,355 km2 (3,226 sq mi)
 (June 2016)
 • Territorial 47,900
 • Density 5.733/km2 (14.849/sq mi)
 • Urban
Area code(s) 06

The Gisborne District or Gisborne Region (Māori: Te Tai Rāwhiti) is an area of northeastern New Zealand governed by the Gisborne District Council. It is named after its largest settlement, the city of Gisborne.

It is also known as the East Coast region, although it is often divided into the East Coast proper, also known as East Cape, north of the city, and Poverty Bay, the area including and surrounding the city. The region is also sometimes referred to as the East Cape, although that also refers specifically to the promontory at the northeastern extremity. More recently, it has been called Eastland, although that can also include Opotiki in the eastern Bay of Plenty to the northwest, and Wairoa to the south.

Its Māori name, Te Tai Rāwhiti, means the Coast of the Sunrise, reflecting the fact that it is the first part of the New Zealand mainland to see the sun rise.


The district is located in the northeastern corner of the North Island. It ranges from the Wharerata Hills in the south, which divide it from the Wairoa district in the Hawke's Bay region, to Lottin Point in the north. The western boundary runs along the Raukumara Range, which separates it from the Opotiki district. In the southwest, its boundary runs along the western edge of Te Urewera National Park.

It is sparsely inhabited and isolated, with small settlements mainly clinging to small bays along the eastern shore including Tokomaru Bay and Tolaga Bay. Its population is 47,900 (June 2016). Three-quarters of the population – 36,100 (June 2016) – lives in the city of Gisborne. No other settlement has a population of over 1000. The largest other settlements are the towns of Tolaga Bay and Ruatoria, each with populations of over 800 in 2001.

Inland, the land is rough, predominantly forested, hill country. A spine of rough ridges dominates the centre of the region, culminating in the impressive bulk of the 1752 metre Mount Hikurangi in Waiapu Valley in the region's northeast. This mountain is the fifth highest mountain in the North Island, and the highest that is not a volcano. Regarded as sacred by the Māori, there is some justification to the claims that this is the first mountain to see the sun in summer.

The region's population has higher than the national average proportion of Māori - over 50% in some areas - and still maintains strong ties to both Māori tradition and the iwi and marae structure. The predominant iwi are Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Ngai Tamanuhiri, Te Aitanga a Mahaki.


The region is sheltered by high country to the west and has a dry, sunny climate. It has a yearly average of 2,200 sunshine hours. The annual rainfall varies from about 1000mm near the coast to over 2500mm in higher inland country.

Climate data for Gisborne
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 24.9
Average low °C (°F) 13.6
Precipitation mm (inches) 54
Source: NIWA Climate Data


Historical population of Gisborne District
Census Pop. ±%
1986 45,758
1991 44,361 −3.2%
1996 45,962 +3.6%
2001 43,971 −4.5%
2006 44,463 +1.1%
2013 43,656 −1.8%

Gisborne District had a population of 43,656 according to the 2013 census. This is a decrease of 807, or 1.8 percent, since the 2006 census. There were 16,185 occupied dwellings, 1,824 unoccupied dwellings, and 51 dwellings under construction.

Of the residential population, 21,093 (48.3%) were male compared to 48.7% nationally, and 22,560 (51.7%) were female, compared to 51.3% nationally. The city had a median age of 37.0 years, 1.0 years below the national median age of 38.0 years. People aged 65 and over made up 14.0% of the population, compared to 14.3% nationally, and people under 15 years made up 24.6%, compared to 20.4% nationally. People aged between 15 and 24 made up approximately 12.7% of the city's residential population.

Gisborne's ethnicity is made up of (national figures in brackets): 56.1% European (74.0%), 45.1% Māori (14.9%), 2.2% Asian (11.8%), 3.5% Pacific Islanders (7.4%), 0.4% Middle Eastern, Latin American or African (1.2%), 1.4% 'New Zealanders' (1.6%), and 0.05% Other (0.1%).

Gisborne had an unemployment rate of 9.4% of people 15 years and over, compared to 7.4% nationally. The median annual income of all people 15 years and over was $24,400, compared to $28,500 nationally. Of those, 41.9% earned under $20,000, compared to 38.2% nationally, while 19.6% earned over $50,000, compared to 26.7% nationally.

Gisborne has the smallest percentage of population born overseas at 9.7% compared to 25.2% for New Zealand as a whole. The highest of these are British totalling 1,335 or 3.1% of the population. Furthermore, 73.0% of the population could speak in one language only, 16.2% in two languages and 1.1% in three or more languages.

2007 earthquake

A map of population density in the Gisborne Region at the 2006 census

At 8.55pm (NZDT) on 20 December 2007, the Gisborne region was hit by an earthquake of Richter magnitude 6.8, centred in the Hikurangi Trench, 50 km southeast of Gisborne at a depth of 40 km. Mercalli intensities of 7-8 were experienced, with three buildings substantially collapsed in the CBD and others experiencing some structural damage. One death was reported (a heart attack of an elderly woman, sustained during the quake) plus minor injuries.

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