It was named Tolaga Bay by Lt. James Cook, In 1769, but 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 iwi Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti.
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 longest in New Zealand (600m) - was built in the 1920s to accommodate visiting vessels. The last cargo ship to use the wharf loaded a cargo of maize in 1967. 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.
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.
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.
- Tolaga Bay, GisborneNZ.com, accessed 8 December 2008
- (in the comments)
- Tolaga Bay, a history of the Uawa District : Tolaga Bay School Centennial, 1888-1988.
- Gisbourne Herald, Friday, March 08, 2013, Project to restore old wharf nears end
- "Te Kararoa". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 2009-12-21.
- "Taharangi". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 2009-12-21.
- Media related to Tolaga Bay at Wikimedia Commons
- "Tolaga Bay History" personal site
- "Gisborne & Eastland"
- Gisborne District Council
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