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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  Cancelled
  • 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. 

Library Collections:

We have a range of useful online resources, which can be accessed on our Digital Content page.  We recommend you start with these:

To complement our online resources, Napier Libraries holds several collections that are useful in discovering local history - from books to newspaper articles, aerial maps to deposit plans, we have something that will help you on your journey.  Come and talk to us to find out more.  Special collections include:

  • Aerial Maps - previously owned by Land Information New Zealand, these crown photos cover the Napier and Hawke's Bay land district.
  • Deposit Plans - historical deposit plans previously owned by Land Information New Zealand.  The early plans were destroyed in the fires after the 1931 earthquake, so many of these had to be reproduced.  Collection ends approx. 2000.
  • Heritage Collection Hawke's Bay and Hawke's Bay Māori - a valuable secondary resource on Napier and Hawke's Bay, including the crown purchases of Māori land in early provincial Hawke's Bay, tribal history, pre-European New Zealand history, and modern history from a Māori viewpoint.
  • Oral Histories - interviews with local people on events, e.g. Hawke's Bay earthquake and post-quake rebuild.
  • The Irene Lister Archive - located at Taradale this is a small collection of photographs, indexed records of Taradale people with births, marriages, and deaths, articles about Taradale people, events buildings, index cards refer to information found in books, cemetery records and private collections.

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