The town of Tauranga was administered at first by the Tauranga North Highways District Board. After the population reached 250 households, Tauranga was proclaimed a Borough on 21 February 1882, and George Vesey Stewart, the founder of the Katikati and Te Puke Special Settlements, was elected the first Mayor. The area incorporated into the Borough was extended from 11th Avenue to 17th Avenue.
Despite its auspicious beginning, the 1880s saw a depression spread over the whole of New Zealand. Tauranga was not spared. The Bay of Plenty Times reported many businessmen going bankrupt. The long awaited Rotorua– Tauranga railway was never built. A deficiency of cobalt, not isolated as the cause until the 1930s, made stock on the farms weak and sickly. Communications were poor, most contact and the shipment of goods having to be made by sea. The population in 1882 was about 1,200 but this declined and the same number was not reached again until about 1911.
Those early settlers who remained loyal to Tauranga through its decline had great faith in the potential of their little community. In 1915, a Town Hall was built capable of seating about a third of the population. In the same year the Omanawa Falls Power Station was completed, and the first “All Electric Home” in New Zealand came into being in Tauranga.
This era saw the unprecedented growth of Tauranga with substantial urbanisation. In the 1950s and 1960s there were five boundary adjustments to cope with the rapidly growing population. In 1959 Maungatapu and Hairini were brought into the Borough. The balance of Otumoetai and Judea were added in 1961. Tauranga was proclaimed a City in 1963 when its population became 21,500 (having nearly trebled in 12 years), with the addition of Greerton.
In 1961, the Tauranga urban area was ranked sixteenth in size.
One of the major factors affecting growth and development in the Tauranga area was the decision in 1950 to develop overseas port facilities at Mount Maunganui to export forestry products from the volcanic plateau. The development of the Kaimai Tunnel also brought produce from the Waikato to the Port at Mount Maunganui. Other communication links were improved in the Tauranga area, e.g. upgrading roads to Rotorua, Hamilton and Mount Maunganui, upgrading Airport and Port facilities. Then in 1987, after years of discussion, work commenced on the Harbour Bridge, which opened to traffic in March 1988.
Mayors of Tauranga, 1882-
The Mayors were elected annually from 1882 until 1915 when a two-year term was approved, and this continued until 1935 when the present system of three year elections was instituted (Tauranga 1882-1982, p.34). You can see who these earely Mayers were in the document "Mayors of Tauranga" below.