kids encyclopedia robot

Tolaga Bay facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Tolaga Bay

Uawa (Māori)
Tolaga Bay
Tolaga Bay
Country New Zealand
Territorial authority Gisborne District
Ward Uawa
 • Total 811
Time zone UTC+12 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+13 (NZDT)
Area code(s) 06

Tolaga Bay (Māori: Uawa) is both a bay and small town on the East Coast of New Zealand's North Island located 45 kilometres northeast of Gisborne and 30 kilometres south of Tokomaru Bay.

The region around the bay is rugged and remote, and for many years the only access to the town was by boat. Because the bay is shallow, a long wharf – the second longest in New Zealand (600m) after the Tiwai Point wharf at Bluff (1,500m) – was built in the 1920s to accommodate visiting vessels. The last cargo ship to use the wharf loaded a cargo of maize in 1967.

The town is a popular holiday spot. Its population is predominantly Māori, a centre of the Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti hapū and home of Ariki – Te Kani a Takirau and Tohunga – Rangiuia.


The Uawa River reaches the Pacific Ocean in the middle of Tolaga Bay. There is a bar at the river mouth with around 2 metres of water at high tide. The Uawa River is called the Hikuwai further up. Tributaries include the Waiau and the Mangaheia. In 2018 heavy rains washed huge amounts of discarded forestry timber (or slash) down the Uawa River, which choked up the estuary, covered the beach, and caused extensive damage to farms and houses.

An island in the bay was originally named Spöring Island by Cook, after his expedition's assistant naturalist and instrument maker, Herman Spöring, a Finnish botanist. It is however today again known by its Māori name, Pourewa.


Uawa Reserve is the settlement's local sports ground.


The population of Tolaga Bay was 831 in the 2018 census, an increase of 84 from 2013. There were 423 males and 411 females. 26.0% of people identified as European/Pākehā, 86.6% as Māori and 4.7% as Pacific peoples. 26.4% were under 15 years old, 15.9% were 15–29, 43.3% were 30–64, and 14.4% were 65 or older.

Historical population
Year Pop. ±% p.a.
2006 1,914 —    
2013 1,728 −1.45%
2018 1,851 +1.38%

The statistical area of Wharekaka, which at 1,198 square kilometres is much larger than this town, had a population of 1,851 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 123 people (7.1%) since the 2013 census, and a decrease of 63 people (-3.3%) since the 2006 census. There were 660 households. There were 945 males and 906 females, giving a sex ratio of 1.04 males per female. The median age was 37.9 years (compared with 37.4 years nationally), with 465 people (25.1%) aged under 15 years, 297 (16.0%) aged 15 to 29, 867 (46.8%) aged 30 to 64, and 222 (12.0%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 49.6% European/Pākehā, 64.2% Māori, 2.9% Pacific peoples, 0.6% Asian, and 1.6% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The proportion of people born overseas was 5.8%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 51.1% had no religion, 34.5% were Christian, 0.2% were Buddhist and 5.0% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 213 (15.4%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 324 (23.4%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $26,900, compared with $31,800 nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 687 (49.6%) people were employed full-time, 219 (15.8%) were part-time, and 81 (5.8%) were unemployed.


Tolaga Bay wharf – New Zealand's second longest wharf

Tolaga Bay was named by Lt. James Cook in 1769. Described as "an obvious corruption of a Maori name", the exact derivation of the name is unclear. It may have been a misunderstanding of "teraki" or "tarakaka", referring to the local south-westerly wind rather than the place. The original Māori name is Uawa Nui A Ruamatua (shortened to Uawa), and some local residents now refer to the area as Hauiti, and themselves as Hauitians from the local hapū Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti.

At the time of Cook's visit, according to Anne Salmond, here "a famous school of learning (Known as Te Rawheoro) that specialized in tribal lore and carving was sited..." Tupaia, the Raiatean navigator accompanying Cook since Tahiti, met with the tohunga, priest, of this whare wananga. Tupaia exchanged news of the "Māori island homelands, known to Māori as 'Rangiatea' (Ra'iatea), 'Hawaiki' (Havai'i, the ancient name for Rai'iatea), and 'Tawhiti' (Tahiti)." The Māori viewed Tupaia as a tohunga, and many children born during his visit bore his name. Additionally, Tupaia made a sketch within the rock shelter of Opoutama ('Cook's Cove' or 'Tupaia's Cave'), according to Joel Polack.

In the 1830s there was a thriving flax trade involving early European traders like Barnet Burns. By 1998, the wharf had deteriorated and was in danger of being closed. In response, the Tolaga Bay Save the Wharf Trust raised funds and gained technical help to restore it. The wharf has now been re-opened and the refurbishment project should finish by May 2013.


Two marae are located south of the main township:

  • Te Rawheoro Marae and Te Rawheoro meeting house is a meeting place of the Ngāti Porou hapū of Ngāti Patu Whare, Te Aitanga a Hauiti and Ngāti Wakarara.
  • Hauiti Marae and Ruakapanga meeting house is a meeting place of the Ngāti Porou hapū of Ngāi Tutekohi, Ngāti Kahukuranui and Te Aitanga a Hauiti.

Three marae are located north of the main township:

  • Puketawai Marae and Te Amowhiu meeting house is a meeting place of the Ngāti Porou hapū of Te Whānau a Te Rangipureora.
  • Hinemaurea ki Mangatuna Marae and Hinemaurea meeting house is a meeting place of Ngāti Kahukuranui, a hapū of Te Aitanga-ā-Hauiti.
  • Ōkurī Marae and meeting house is a meeting place of the Ngāti Porou hapū of Ngāti Ira and Ngāti Kahukuranui.

In October 2020, the Government committed $5,756,639 from the Provincial Growth Fund to upgrade 29 Ngāti Porou marae, including Te Rawheoro Marae, Hauiti Marae, Puketawai Marae and Hinemaurea ki Mangatuna Marae. The funding was expected to create 205 jobs.


Tolaga Bay Area School is a Year 1–15 state area school with a roll of 282.

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Mangatuna is a Year 1–8 Māori immersion school with a roll of 15

Both schools are co-educational. Rolls are as of April 2023.

kids search engine
Tolaga Bay Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.