Gisborne is named for an early Colonial Secretary William Gisborne. The council is located in the town of Gisborne (locally referred to as the City of Gisborne). State Highway 2 passes through Gisborne and Gisborne is the northern terminus of the Palmerston North - Gisborne Line railway, which opened in 1942. Passenger services were provided until 1988, when the Endeavour express was cancelled north of Napier. Today, the railway carries solely freight.
The region is located in the northeastern corner of the North Island and is also referred to as the East Cape or East Coast or Eastland region. It is a sparsely inhabited and isolated region, with small settlements mainly clinging to small bays along the eastern shore including Tokomaru Bay and Tolaga Bay. The population of the region is about 45,000, with almost three quarters of those living in the city of Gisborne. No other settlement has a population of over 1000. The largest other settlements are the towns of Tolaga Bay and Ruatoria, each with populations of over 800 in 2001.
Inland, the land is rough, predominantly forested, hill country. Te Urewera National Park is located in the west of the region, and the Kaingaroa Forest is located further west of that. A spine of rough ridges dominates the centre of the region, culminating in the impressive bulk of the 1620 metre Mount Hikurangi in the region's northeast. This mountain is the fifth highest mountain in the North Island, and the highest that is not a volcano. Regarded as sacred by the Māori, there is some justification to the claims that this is the first mountain to see the sun in summer (see note below under Gisborne City).
The region's population has higher than the national average proportion of Māori - over 50% in some areas - and still maintains strong ties to both Māori tradition and the iwi and marae structure. The predominant iwi in the region are Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata, Ngai Tamanuhiri, Te Aitanga a Mahaki.
The city of Gisborne is located at the north end of Poverty Bay. The white cliff headland of Young Nick's Head at the other end of the bay is visible from the city. The cliffs can be seen in the left hand side of the sat photo. The Māori name for the cliffs is Te Kuri o Kiwa, meaning The Dog of Kiwa, as this was what it was originally said to look like.
This prominence was the first part of New Zealand sighted by the crew of Captain James Cook's ship Endeavour, and was named for the crew member who first saw it. A memorial to Cook stands on the foreshore, marking the point where he first stepped ashore in New Zealand on October 8, 1769.
On the right hand side of the sat photo at the other end of the bay, known as Poverty Bay, is Kaiti Hill. This hill overlooks the town and magnificent views can be obtained by driving or walking to the summit.
The city maintains a rural charm and is a popular holiday spot. Local industries include agriculture, horticulture, farming and forestry. Wine production is also valuable to the local economy. It is sometimes known as the City of Rivers as the centre of town is the convergence of three different rivers.
The harbour was host to many ships in the past. A meat works was sited beside the harbour and meat and wool was shipped from here. Now the harbour is the home of many smaller fishing boats as well as ships loading logs for export.
Gisborne boasts being the first city in the world to greet the sun each day. Technically, however, this is only true for part of the year. Both Suva, Fiji, and Nukualofa, Tonga, are closer to the International Date Line and therefore would seem more likely candidates for this title. Due to the earth's tilt on its axis, however, Gisborne does overtake their claim as New Zealand summer days grow longer. In the longest days of summer, though, it again loses the title to the hillier suburbs of Dunedin in the South Island.
The city has the benefit of being very close to the white sand beaches of Waikanae and Midway. A short distance from the city is the surf beach of Wainui.
Two major annual events are the Dawn Raid Beach Day Out, which is an outdoor concert featuring many of the Dawn Raid Hip-hop stars held in January, and the Rhythm & Vines concert held every New Years' Eve which features a huge concert featuring well-known New Zealand bands performing in a vineyard.
Gisborne had three sister cities in the Sister Cities International Program, two are in the United Kingdom (one in Wales and Scotland), the third being Palm Desert, California in the US. The town of Gisborne 50 kilometes north-west of Melbourne, Australia is now also twinned with it.
In the surroundings are two important arboreta: