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Local History

Ngāti Kahungunu are the tangata whenua of the Hawke's Bay area, who trace their origins to the Tākitimu waka, which arrived in Aotearoa from Rarotonga around 1100-1200 AD.  Ngāti Kahungunu were one of the first Māori tribes to encounter European settlers, with Captain Cook and the HMS Endeavour landing in Napier in October 1769. 

In the 1830's, traders, whalers, missionaries and other forerunners of a permanent European settlement began to appear.  Napier; originally known as Ahuriri; continued to grow as more settlers arrived.  On 3 February 1931, Napier was hit by a devastating earthquake measuring 7.8 on the richter scale, which literally changed the landscape of Napier.  Napier was rebuilt in the Art Deco style; continuing grow into the city we know today.

Napier Library has a wide range of resources to help you in your journey of discovery as you learn about our rich history.  Kia manahau!


The Library holds an Introduction to Local History course each term.  Designed for those new to local history, this class explores the resources available through Napier Libraries, along with some tips and tricks to help you along your research journey.  To sign up for this free class, check our our Free Digital Skills Workshop page.  Course dates:

  • 10 am - 12 noon, 16 March, Taradale Library
  • 1 pm - 3 pm, 15 June, Taradale Library
  • 10 am - 12 noon,  24 August, Taradale Library
  • 1 pm - 3 pm, 16 November, Taradale Library

Research help:

Our Research Librarians have pulled together these useful guides to help you get started in local history:

If you would like any help finding your way through our resources, we have a Research Enquiry service available, or you can ask our friendly staff. 

Useful Resources:

  • Aerial Map Collection - these crown photos cover the Napier and Hawke's Bay land disctrict.
  • Digital Content page - we have a wide range of useful databases and online content available.
  • Heritage Collection Hawke's Bay - a valuable secondary resource on Napier and Hawke's Bay, including the crown purchases of Māori land in early provincial Hawke's Bay.
  • Heritage Māori Collection - full of useful resources, including tribal history, pre-European New Zealand history, and modern history from a Māori viewpoint.
  • Newspapers - we have The Daily Telegraph (1881-1999), Hawke's Bay Herald (1877-1904), and Hawke's Bay Today (1999-current) available to view on microfilm.
  • Microfiche / Microfilm - indexes to births, deaths, marriages, NZ cemetery records, Wises Post Office & Stones directories, Turnbull Library's NZ Biographical clippings, and more.
  • Oral History Collection - interviews with local people on events in Napier's history.
  • Tāhuhu Kōrero - History page - full of useful resources for discovering Māori history.

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Napier Library to reopen Tuesday 13 April
Napier Library will reopen to the public on Tuesday 13th April. Remedial works on the sprinkler system in the area of the MTG building that is occupied by the library are now complete. Napier Library staff are pleased that they’ll be back soon and are looking forward to welcoming the community once more.
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Positive progress on remedial building work
We are currently anticipating that public areas of the library will be open by the end of March or early April.
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