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Tokomaru Bay
Tokomaru Bay
Tokomaru Bay
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Country New Zealand
Territorial authority Gisborne District
Ward Waiapu
Shipping Co. store - panoramio
Former New Zealand Shipping Company store

Tokomaru Bay is a small beachside community located on the isolated East Coast of New Zealand's North Island. It is 91 km north of Gisborne, on State Highway 35, and close to Mount Hikurangi. The district was originally known as Toka-a-Namu, which refers to the abundance of sandflies. Over the years the name was altered to Tokomaru Bay.

The two hapu or sub-tribes that reside in Tokomaru Bay are Te Whanau a Ruataupare and Te Whānau a Te Aotawarirangi. The ancestral mountain of Tokomaru Bay is Marotiri. The ancestral river is Mangahauini.

History and culture

The seven-kilometre wide bay is small but sheltered, and was a calling place for passenger ships until the early 20th century. Captain Cook spent time here on his 1769 journey of discovery, and later European settlement included a whaling station. A visit by Missionaries Williams, Colenso, Matthews and Stack heralded the coming of Christianity to the district in 1838 and their crusade proved very successful with the local people.

The area around the bay has long been a Maori stronghold. The nearby at Te Mawhai was refortified by Henare Potae in the 1860s during the battles between the Ngati Porou and the warriors that followed the Pai Mārire movement (commonly known as Hauhau).

The town's modern economy is mainly based on agriculture and forestry, with some tourism.

Tokomaru Bay's population is predominantly Māori, with the area being a stronghold for the Ngāti Porou iwi.

Southern right whales sometimes come into bay to calve or rest.


The population of Tokomaru Bay was 444 in the 2018 census, an increase of 12 from 2013. There were 228 males and 216 females. 85.1% of people identified as Māori, and 31.8% as European/Pākehā. 19.6% were under 15 years old, 16.2% were 15–29, 43.2% were 30–64, and 21.0% were 65 or older.

Historical population
Year Pop. ±% p.a.
2006 1,056 —    
2013 933 −1.75%
2018 954 +0.45%

The statistical area of Tokomaru, which at 1,145 square kilometres is much larger than the town, had a population of 954 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 21 people (2.3%) since the 2013 census, and a decrease of 102 people (-9.7%) since the 2006 census. There were 348 households. There were 504 males and 450 females, giving a sex ratio of 1.12 males per female. The median age was 43.6 years (compared with 37.4 years nationally), with 207 people (21.7%) aged under 15 years, 156 (16.4%) aged 15 to 29, 417 (43.7%) aged 30 to 64, and 174 (18.2%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 82.1% Māori, 34.3% European/Pākehā, 6.0% Pacific peoples, 1.3% Asian, and 0.6% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The proportion of people born overseas was 2.8%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 34.9% had no religion, 41.8% were Christian, 0.3% were Hindu, 0.3% were Buddhist and 12.3% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 102 (13.7%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 186 (24.9%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $22,000, compared with $31,800 nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 297 (39.8%) people were employed full-time, 102 (13.7%) were part-time, and 51 (6.8%) were unemployed.

Tokomaru Bay Wharf
Wharf at Tokomaru Bay


Te Whānau a Ruataupare ki Tokomaru, a hapū of Ngāti Porou, has three meeting places in the area: Pakirikiri Marae and Te Hono ki Rarotonga meeting house, Tuatini Marae and Huiwhenua meeting house, and Waiparapara Marae and Te Poho o Te Tikanga meeting house.

In October 2020, the Government committed $5,756,639 from the Provincial Growth Fund to upgrade Pakirikiri, Tuatini, Waiparapara, and 26 other Ngāti Porou marae. The funding was expected to create 205 jobs.

Te Ariuru Marae and Te Poho o Te Aotawarirangi meeting house, located in the northern bay, is a meeting place of another Ngāti Porouhapū hapū, Te Whānau a Te Aotawarirangi.


Hatea-A-Rangi Memorial Park is Tokomaru Bay's sports ground and local park.


Hatea-A-Rangi is a Year 1–8 state school with a roll of 22.

Mata School, located inland from Tokomaru Bay, is a Year 1–8 state primary school with a roll of 6.

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Tokomaru is a year 1–8 Kura Kaupapa Māori school. It has a roll of 21.

All these schools are co-educational. School rolls are as of July 2016.

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