Wairoa in Māori means 'Long Water'. A rich culture and heritage have been harnessed and displayed to great effect against a backdrop of natural beauty that rivals any in New Zealand.
Inland lies Lake Waikaremoana – the jewel of Te Urewera where visitors enjoy a multitude of outdoor pursuits.
Heading east towards the coast, native bush gives way to productive farmland, serviced by the township of Wairoa, which lies at the mouth of the mighty Wairoa River.
Further along the coast lies the stunning Mahia Peninsula, which is home to a vast collection of sandy beaches, enticing surf breaks and rewarding fishing grounds.
A large number of superbly carved marae dot the landscape, sending out a message to visitors that a living culture resides here in the district that is proving itself as the ultimate tourist and lifestyle destination.
Wairoa was originally a Māori settlement. The ancestral canoe Tākitimu travelled up the river and landed near where the Tākitimu meeting house now sits. The river was an important source of food for the community that grew on its banks.
William Rhodes established a trading station there in 1839, and missionary William Williams first visited in 1841. A permanent mission station was established in 1844. Early European squatters ran sheep and traded flax.
The town site (then called Clyde) was purchased by the government in 1864 and sections were sold to settlers in 1866. Members of the Māori Pai Mārire (Hauhau) faith arrived in the district around the same time and Wairoa became a colonial military base. Battles were fought around upper Wairoa and Lake Waikaremoana. Māori land in the district and around the lake was later confiscated by the government despite many Wairoa Māori having fought for the Crown.
Development of the town was hindered by lack of roads and difficulty navigating the entrance to the Wairoa River. The land was converted into pastoral farms and later exotic pine forestry, and dairy factories and freezing works were opened. However, Wairoa continued to be constrained by its isolation and reliance on rural industries vulnerable to economic downturns.