William Gisborne was born in 1825, the third son of a notable Derbyshire family. He arrived in New Zealand aboard the Pestonjee Bomanjee in 1847.

Gisborne joined the civil service and was appointed to a variety of different roles, building a reputation as a dependable bureaucrat. It was during this early part of his career that he was involved a bizarre incident at a supper party in Auckland. Late in the evening Gisborne was accidentally hit in the face with an orange thrown by a Mr Blackmore. Rather than seeing the funny side of the incident he took offence and challenged Blackmore to a duel. Two days later pistols were drawn and there was “an exchange of shot, to salve the dignity of both” but neither man was injured.

His success as an administrator led to a move into politics and a role as Colonial Secretary for the government led by the second Premier of New Zealand, Sir William Fox. In 1871 Gisborne was elected unopposed to represent the Egmont electorate.  Opunake was part the electorate, which stretched from just west of New Plymouth to the Whanganui River and down to Pātea. However, the following year the Fox ministry collapsed and Gisborne resigned his seat.

In 1881 he returned to England to manage his family’s large estates which he had inherited after the death of his brother. He went on to write two influential books about New Zealand, New Zealand rulers and statesmen (1886) and The colony of New Zealand (1888). He died on 7 January 1898 at Allestree Hall in Derbyshire.

William Gisborne is remembered not only with this street name in Opunake but also the city on the east coast of the North Island.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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