Story: Taranaki places

Page 7. Pātea

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Township 28 km south-east of Hāwera and 64 km north-west of Whanganui on State Highway 3, with a 2013 population of 1,098.


Founded as a military outpost in 1865, Pātea was originally named Carlyle. By the time it became a borough in 1881, the town was the main settlement in southern Taranaki and its river port was one of the busiest in the region, exporting cheese, wool, meat and flax.

Established in 1883, Pātea’s meat-freezing works was the economic basis of the town for a century. It closed in 1982 and a dire future was predicted for the town. However, Pātea has survived – although precariously at times. The Pātea Māori Club’s 1984 hit song ‘Poi e’ drew nationwide attention to the town.


In 2013, 48.1% of Pātea residents identified as Māori. 6.0% had a bachelor's degree or higher, while 48.9% had no formal qualifications. The median income was $19,000 (compared with $29,100 regionally and $28,500 nationally).

Cultural facilities

Pātea’s main street features a unique 17-metre-long concrete Aotea waka (canoe) with a crew of nine painted concrete figures. It was erected in 1933 to commemorate the settlement of the area by the waka’s captain Turi, his wife Rongorongo and their family.

Nearby is the library and Plunket rooms (1930), a neo-Georgian-style brick building designed by Auckland architects Gummer and Ford.

Where’s Waverley?

A signpost marks the old boundary between Taranaki province and Wellington, 7 kilometres east of Pātea on State Highway 3. Waverley and Waitōtara, 10 and 23 kilometres further along the road, became part of South Taranaki district in 1989, but have kept many links with Whanganui.


Rural settlement 13 km north of Pātea off State Highway 3, established in the early 1880s. Access to the Pātea dam and Lake Rotorangi is through Alton and nearby Hurleyville.


Rural settlement 7 km north-west of Pātea on State Highway 3. Kākaramea was founded as a military settlement and surveyed in 1866 with the protection of a company of Patea Rangers. A blockhouse and redoubt were built.


Rural settlement 13 km north-west of Pātea on State Highway 3. Manutahi was briefly General Duncan Cameron’s headquarters during the military occupation of the district in 1865. When his forces moved north, Manutahi, with its redoubt and blockhouse, became a post in the line of communication with Whanganui.

North-west of Manutahi, near the mouth of the Manawapou River, are the remaining earthworks of the Manawapou or Thacker’s redoubt, constructed by Cameron in 1865. It was from this redoubt that Private Kimble Bent – an American drifter who had enlisted in England – deserted from the 57th Regiment to Māori forces.

On the headland overlooking the rivermouth is the cliff-top of Manawapou. The large meeting house Taiporohēnui was erected here in 1855 for a meeting of tribes to discuss land sales to Pākehā.

Lake Rotorangi

Artificial lake, 46 km long, formed on the Pātea River by an 80-metre-high earth-fill dam (New Zealand’s fourth highest). The dam was built between 1979 and 1984 to power a 30-megawatt power station. Rotorangi is the longest man-made lake in New Zealand and caters for boating and fishing. The station is operated by the generating company TrustPower.

How to cite this page:

Ron Lambert, 'Taranaki places - Pātea', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 June 2024)

Story by Ron Lambert, published 11 Dec 2009, updated 1 Sep 2016