The beautiful sun blessed city of Napier welcomed us this morning with a somewhat cloudy sky, but it did not take long for it to open up to the usual sun-drenched day for which the region is so well known.
As in Gisborne, the first contact with Europeans was with Capt. James Cook on his first visit to New Zealand in 1769. However, it wasn’t until 1844 when the first missionary was sent from the Bay of Islands in the north that organized settlement began. From this time onwards, the local Maori who saw the benefit of trading with these new arrivals leased large areas of suitable grazing land.
Historically, the Hawks Bay has always had a strong connection with the land from the early Maori settlement through to today. The Heretauanga Plans is where a great amount of New Zealand’s exported apple, horticulture and viticulture is produced. A warm, mostly dry climate (some would say almost Mediterranean) provides ideal conditions.
Our day began with a visit to a large colony (10,000) of Australasian Gannets Morus serrator at Cape Kidnappers, for all (including the non-birders) this was an exceptional experience with excellent photographic opportunities. We went back to the ship for lunch and in the afternoon most took the opportunity to take a bus/walking tour of the city, described as the Art Deco Capital of the World.
Napier is very unique. On February 3, 1931, the city was reduced to rubble by a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake and subsequent fire. However, from the ashes arose a magnificent new Art Deco City, designed and built within two years.
Nowhere else can you see such a variety of buildings from the 1930s: stripped classical, Spanish mission, and above all Art Deco, the Jazz Age styles, in such a concentrated area.
The city is currently in the process of applying to have the area declared a World Heritage Site.
A beautiful place, a beautiful day.