The Māori name for the Gisborne district is Tairawhiti (tye-ra-fee-tee), "the coast upon which the sun shines across the water," and Gisborne is indeed the first city in New Zealand to see sunrise. With a population of just 30,000, it's hardly large; however, you'll need a day or so to get around properly. The landmark Town Clock stands in the middle of Gladstone Road; nearby, in a house on Grey Street, Kiri Te Kanawa, New Zealand's world-famous opera diva, was born in 1944 (the house is no longer there).
Europeans settled the Gisborne area early in the 19th century. A plaque on the waterfront commemorates the first official sale—of an acre of land—on June 30, 1831. On that site, the first European house and store was reportedly erected (it's long gone, too).