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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 to 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!

We hold 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 out our Courses and Classes page

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

If you need a hand finding your way through our resources, our friendly team is here to help. For more in-depth enquiries, we have a Research Help service available. 

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

Archives New Zealand

Archives New Zealand preserves and protects more than seven million official records, from 19th century treaties to 21st century documents and data.  Their goal is for all New Zealanders to easily access and use this taonga, connecting you to your rights and entitlements and stories - now and for the future.

Papers Past

Papers Past features digitised copies of New Zealand and Pacific newspapers from the 19th and 20th Centuries. The archive also includes journals, letters, diaries, parliamentary papers, and magazines. 

Retrolens Historical Image Resource

Retrolens is a treasure trove of over 500,000 aerial photographs taken from 1936 to 2005. 

Te Ara New Zealand Encyclopedia

Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand is the complete guide to our peoples, environment, history, culture and society.  Te Ara also includes the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, containing the life stories of over 3,000 people.

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:

  • 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, 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 Collection: 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.
  • Microfiche and Microfilm: Burial Index, Divorces 1946-1966, Index to Births 1840-1990, Index to Deaths 1848-1990, Index to Marriages 1840-1990.

Taradale Library

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24 White Street
Taradale, 4141
New Zealand

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