Story: Bay of Plenty places
Page 17 – Ōpōtiki
Town in the eastern Bay of Plenty. Situated 60 km south-east of Whakatāne at the junction of State Highways 2 and 35, it lies in the centre of the traditional tribal area of Te Whakatōhea.
In 2006 the population was 4,176, with 57.3% claiming Māori ethnicity, and 42.2% claiming European ethnicity.
A Church Missionary Society (Anglican) station was established in 1840. The settlement was also the site of a significant incident in the New Zealand Wars: the missionary Carl Völkner was executed there by Māori on 2 March 1865. The reason given was that while under their protection, he had been acting as a government agent. In the aftermath much Te Whakatōhea land was confiscated.
Military settlers were allocated land in the district and Ōpōtiki became a government centre in the Bay of Plenty. It became a town district in 1882 and a borough in 1908. The population grew along with farming, from 627 (Europeans only) in 1901 to 1,437 (Māori and European) in 1936.
However, Whakatāne soon drew ahead of Ōpōtiki to become the Eastern bay’s principal centre. Ōpōtiki also suffered in the 1980s with the drive for more economic efficiency. A shirt factory and a clothing factory at nearby Waimana both closed, and public works employed fewer people. The population declined by 3.7% between 1996 and 2001.
In recent years horticulture, especially kiwifruit, has brought a new source of income. A planned offshore mussel farm would boost the town’s employment and economy.