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Initially this stemmed from Tauranga iwi supporting the Waikato iwi in their conflict with the government.

In retaliation, British Crown and government-allied Māori forces attacked the Tauranga iwi, including at the famous Battle of Gate Pā in 1864.

Dairy factories sprang up across the Bay of Plenty in the 1900s, with butter and cheese feeding economic prosperity throughout the early 20th century; local Māori continued to live on the fringe of this prosperity.These include the Mataatua, Nukutere, Tākitimu, Arawa and Tainui canoes.Many of the descendent iwi maintain their traditional homelands (rohe) in the region, including Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Te Whakatōhea, Ngāi Tai, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa ki Kawerau, Te Arawa, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāti Pūkenga.Initial settlements in the region struggled: the climate was ill-suited to sheep farming and the geography was inaccessible, further hindered by a lack of infrastructure.By the end of the century the population had started to dwindle.

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The region extends 12 nautical miles from the mainland coastline, and also extends from the coastlines of several islands in the bay, notably Mayor Island/Tuhua, Motiti Island, Whale Island and the active volcano of Whakaari/White Island.

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