Central Hawke’s Bay is home to two main towns, Waipukurau and Waipawa, with a number of smaller townships including Otane, Takapau, Tikokino, Porangahau and Ongaonga; as well as several beach townships.
The earliest permanent occupants of Heretaunga were Ngati Whatumamoa and Ngati Awa to the North of the Ngaruroro River and Te Aitanga a Whatonga to the South. The key to occupation at Waipukurau in ancient times was the prized eeling lake of Whatuma, now modified to Hatuma.
Central Hawke's Bay as we know it today is made up of a number of towns and smaller settlements founded by the early pastoralists who bought up great chunks of land here in the second half of the 1800's, created vast farming stations and built beautiful homesteads.
The rich inland plain that from North to South known commonly as the Ruataniwha Plains and Takapau Plains further South meant Central Hawke’s Bay was the perfect environment for farming stations and agriculture.
The two major towns in the district, Waipukurau and Waipawa had very different starts to colonial life. In 1860 Waipawa was one of the first established inland towns in the colony and has always taken a leading part in the history of the province. Waipawa quickly became a progressive community and administrative center for the area.
When in 1867 Henry Robert Russell purchased the land on which he established Waipukurau as a model village, Russell leased his land with the idea that all of it would be reverted to a town council in 99 years time, so as to realize his personal dream of making Waipukurau the richest city in New Zealand. Over time Waipukurau has become the main service town for Central Hawke’s Bay. Both towns have recently celebrated their 150th anniversaries.