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Brief History of CHB
The earliest permanent occupants of Heretuanga were Ngati Whatumamoa and Ngati Awa to the North of the Ngaruroro River and Te Aitanga a Whatonga to the South. The key to occupation at Waipukurau in ancient times was the prized eeling lake of Whatuma, now modified to Hatuma. Significant stands of native timber surrounded Whatuma Lake in those days and Kereru (native wood pigeons) were snared in abundance.
The arrival of Archdeacon William Williams on 20th January 1840 as the first resident missionary on the East Coast certainly made more impression on the exiled Maori population at Nukutaurua than the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi 17 days later. Yet these two events were the catalyst that led to the repatriation of Hawkes Bay during the following five years. In November 1851, Donald McLean bought 279,000 acres on behalf of the Crown. This area of Central Hawkes Bay was known as the Waipukurau Block.
The two major towns in the district, Waipukurau and Waipawa had very different starts to colonial life. As one of the first established inland towns (1860) in the colony, Waipawa has, even from the earliest days, taken a leading part in the history of the province of Central Hawkes Bay. Founded by an early settler, Mr. F. S. Abbott, Waipawa soon became a progressive community and administrative center for the area stretching from Te Aute to Woodwille, bounded by the Ruahine Ranges and the sea. The original Waipawa County Council was formed in 1877.
In the 1850’s six run holders controlled the best grazing land in Waipukurau. 1867 saw the village and part of the surrounding country belonging to H.R. Russell who did not sell any of his property. Russell leased his land with the idea that all of it would be reverted to a town council in 99 years time, so as to realize his personal dream of making Waipukurau the richest city in New Zealand.
A rich inland plain runs from North to South known commonly as the Ruataniwha Plains (north of the Tuki tuki river) and Takapau Plains further South.
As the towns progressed, communications with other Hawkes Bay centers increased. In 1867 both telegraph and road services between Napier and Waipawa commenced. In 1874 the railway was begun in Napier and by 1876 had reached Waipawa.