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A brief history

Tauranga City is a geographically small territorial authority centred on the Tauranga township and including Mt Maunganui and Papamoa. It is bounded to the north by the Bay of Plenty coastline, and is surrounded to the east, west and south by the Western Bay of Plenty District.

The sea and the harbour have long been defining features of Tauranga, whose name means anchorage or resting place. The first settlers in the area were Ngamarama who, like later arrivals, were drawn by the long coastline, abundant seafood, fertile soil and mild climate. These rich resources meant the region was continuously occupied – and sometimes fought over – by Maori tribes (including Ngaiterangi, Ngati Ranginui and Ngapuhi) for more than seven centuries.

European missionaries, traders and seafarers began arriving in the Tauranga District in the 1820s. In 1835, a mission station was established on Te Papa peninsula where the city of Tauranga now stands. A military camp was built soon after and, in 1864, Tauranga became the site of two of the fiercest engagements of the New Zealand Wars – Gate Pa (a Ngaiterangi pa built near the entrance to the mission land) and Te Ranga. After these battles, the Government confiscated a considerable amount of Ngaiterangi tribal land, on which the city of Tauranga subsequently grew. (Ngaiterangi were compensated for the confiscation by an Act of Parliament in 1981, which also granted a symbolic ”pardon” to those who fought the Government forces at Gate Pa and Te Ranga).

Once a quiet, prosperous farming centre and holiday destination, Tauranga began to boom in the second half of the twentieth century. The large commercial forests to the east and south began to mature, generating export timber and jobs. Pumice land originally thought unsuitable for farming began to be used after its underlying cobalt deficiency was identified. Ever-increasing volumes of kiwifruit and other sub-tropical fruits were grown. The port at Mount Maunganui became the country’s biggest, boosted by the opening of the Kaimai Tunnel in 1978, which provided a direct rail link with the Waikato.

As a result of these developments, Tauranga’s population expanded enormously. In 1976, the district had just 48,000 residents. By 2001, the population had nearly doubled to just over 90,900 people, making Tauranga one of the fastest growing districts in the country. Its growth was fuelled by the 1988 opening of the harbour bridge, joining Tauranga and Mount Maunganui (they formally amalgamated a year later) and promoting growth in both areas.

By 2004, the Tauranga District had 101,300 residents. Statistics New Zealand projects the population will climb to 113,900 by 2011, and to 131,3002 by 2021, putting Tauranga among New Zealand’s five largest cities. At the time of writing, the results of the 2006 Census are eagerly awaited in Tauranga, with many people anticipating the population will have grown even more than was projected in 2001.

Although Tauranga is now one of New Zealand’s largest cities, many of its social services structures are still at a provincial-town level. Most service centre managers report to regional offices in other places, which in turn report to head offices in Wellington.

2These population projections assume medium rates of fertility, mortality and migration.

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