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Taranaki places

by Ron Lambert

This is a comprehensive guide to the towns, coastal and inland areas, and other places of interest in Taranaki.

Waitara and the northern coast


Town 16 km north-east of New Plymouth, with a 2013 population of 6,483.


Waitara has been settled for hundreds of years. Some of the earthworks of the extensive early , Manukorihi, survive in the grounds of Manukorihi Intermediate School on the bluff overlooking the town. Ōwae, Te Āti Awa’s central marae, also stands within the pā. Its meeting house, Te Ika-roa-a-Māui, was completed in 1936, when the statue of politician Māui Pōmare was erected.


The name of Waitara town is said to be derived from the story of Whare Matangi, the estranged son of Ngārue. He was given a magic dart (tara) that would lead him to his father. After a number of throws, the tara struck Ngārue’s house at the mouth of the river, thereafter known as Te Whai-tara-nui-a-Ngārue (follow the dart of Ngārue). This story was illustrated on the Ōwae marae entrance gate by carver John Bevan Ford in 1973.

British troops used the Waitara River for access in 1860, when a dispute over the purchase of the Pekapeka block (west Waitara) led to the first Taranaki war. The military camp established on what is now Pukekohe domain became the centre of operations in the Waitara area during the war.

Originally known as Raleigh, the township was established in 1867. In 1904 it was renamed Waitara after the river. For most of the 20th century Waitara’s economy was based on the large Borthwick’s freezing works, which opened in 1885. The works closed in 1997, a casualty of ageing facilities and changing international market conditions.

The Waitara port was established near the town bridge, but the bar at the rivermouth prevented large vessels from entering. The port was decommissioned in 1941.

The first Taranaki Māori festival was held in Waitara in November 2009, involving people from the region’s eight tribes.


In 2013, 39.9% of Waitara residents identified as Māori, compared with 17.4% regionally and 14.9% nationally.


Locality 3 km east of the Waitara River on State Highway 3. Motunui is home to the Methanex methanol plant, built in the 1980s as the Synfuel synthetic petrol plant.


Small rural settlement 6 km south-east of Waitara. Tikorangi was established near two 1865 redoubts. In the early 20th century it had a dairy factory, school, general store, blacksmith and St Luke’s Anglican Church (1901).


Settlement 10 km east of Waitara on State Highway 3. The Onaero domain, at the mouth of the Onaero River, is a small beach camp. To the north, Onaero Beach settlement has a number of permanent residents.


Rural service centre 16 km east of Waitara, with a 2013 population of 426. The Ngāti Mutunga people are centred on Urenui, and Ruapekapeka marae is on the township’s eastern boundary. A few kilometres north-east is Ōkoki pā historic reserve, where the ashes of Te Rangi Hīroa (Sir Peter Buck) are interred under a stylised canoe-prow memorial. The township began as a military settlement around the Urenui redoubt in 1865. The beach camp at the rivermouth is a popular summer holiday spot.


Settlement 34 km north-east of Waitara at the junction of the flood-prone Urutī and Mimi streams. Urutī was the first place in New Zealand to have a backblocks district nurse, in 1909. The 2003 movie The last samurai was filmed in the Urutī valley.


Coastal settlement 30 km north-east of Waitara. Ngāti Tama’s fortress of Pukearuhe pā at the southern end of Parininihi (the White Cliffs) guarded the entrance to Taranaki for many centuries. The iwi’s modern marae is a kilometre or so south.

In 1865 Pukearuhe was occupied by the 70th Regiment and Taranaki Bushrangers, who built a redoubt and blockhouse. It remained a military outpost until 1885. Clifton township was surveyed around it, but did not develop much beyond housing for the garrison’s families. In 1869 the redoubt was attacked by a Ngāti Maniapoto war party which killed the eight residents and the visiting missionary John Whiteley.

The White Cliffs (Parininihi)

Natural landmark between Pukearuhe and Tongapōrutu. The bush-clad ridges of the inland hill country reach the sea to form the towering 245-metre grey mudstone ramparts. The 9.6-km White Cliffs Walkway crosses the area and follows the natural-gas pipeline corridor. A tunnel at Te Horo was completed in 1889, allowing travellers and drovers to avoid the near-impassable Ruataniwha or Rigby’s Point (named after Constable John Rigby, who drowned there while swimming horses around the point).

A moving frontier


The Mōkau River was the old northern boundary of Taranaki, and Mōkau residents still maintain close links with the province. The present boundary is the Mōhakatino River watershed, a few kilometres south of Mōkau.



Ahitītī was named after the Māori practice of lighting ridgetop fires (ahi) to attract tītī (petrels or muttonbirds) as they returned to their nesting colonies in the hills.


Tongapōrutu is a popular holiday area, with a beach accessible at low tide. Pou Tehia historic reserve, at the northern end of the bridge, is a pā with a family memorial to Thomas McClutchie, a scout for the military during the Taranaki wars.



Town and rural service centre 18 km south-east of New Plymouth, with a 2013 population of 3,243.


Inglewood was founded in 1875, in a clearing in dense forest. Settlers under Julius Vogel’s assisted immigration schemes came from England, East Prussia (now within Poland), Denmark and Switzerland. In 1876 the railway from New Plymouth reached Inglewood. In the 2000s the town’s railway station was New Zealand’s oldest in its original location.

Inglewood’s Moa Co-operative Dairy Company, with its distinctive ‘Sunflower’ brand butter, became the Moa-Nui Co-operative after northern Taranaki’s other factories amalgamated with it in 1980. Moa-Nui merged with South Taranaki’s Kiwi Dairies in 1992.

The town’s war memorial – ‘the sorrowing soldier’ – was dedicated in 1924. Behind it stands what is claimed to be the biggest rhododendron in the southern hemisphere, planted in 1924.

For many years Inglewood was the home of a factory making the near-indestructible Fun Ho! sand-cast metal toys. The Fun Ho! Museum and Information Centre is at the town’s central intersection.

From 1952 to 1972 Inglewood held an annual ‘greatest show on earth’ – a gala day featuring parades, races, circus acts and wood-chopping, which in its heyday drew up to 35,000 people.

The Windsor and Ngātoro oil and gas fields are in pastureland south and west of the town respectively.


Township 13 km north of Inglewood. Lepperton was established as a military settlement in the 1860s. The township was named after Lieutenant Colonel Maxwell Lepper of the 14th Regiment, one of the nine regiments to serve in the Taranaki wars. After he retired from the regiment, Lepper became the commander of the Taranaki military settlers and was allocated a block of land in the settlement. Later members of the family developed a well-known pedigree Jersey livestock stud.

Egmont Village

Township 12 km south-east of New Plymouth, with a 2013 population of 594. Egmont Village is the access point for Egmont National Park and the North Egmont Visitor Centre. Five km south-west is the isolated, rounded German Hill – named after the Polish farmers (then known as Germans) who settled around it.


Settlement 9 km south-west of Inglewood, on the road to the North Egmont Visitor Centre in Egmont National Park. Its most notable resident was the German immigrant Harry Peters, a mountain guide and local politician who popularised this access route to the national park. The Kaimiro oil and gas field is north of Kaimiro.


Settlement 8 km east of Inglewood on the eastern edge of the Taranaki ring plain, established about 1890. The rough-cast concrete St John’s Peace Memorial Church was designed by well-known Taranaki architect Frank Messenger. District pioneer Albert Burwell had it built in memory of his wife.


Settlement 18 km east of Inglewood. Tarata is important to the Ngāti Maru iwi. In a loop of the Waitara River opposite the domain is the large , Kerikeringa. In the summer of 1819/20 this was attacked and taken by a musket-armed war party of Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Toa. A few kilometres upriver is the site of Kawau kāinga (village), where Wiremu Kīngi Te Rangitāke and Tītokowaru took refuge after the Taranaki wars. Ngāti Maru’s Tarata marae, Te Ūpoko-o-te-whenua, is near the Waitara River bridge.

The district was opened to Pākehā settlement in the mid-1880s and the township was established in 1889. In the 2000s only the community hall (1905) and nearby church (1901) survived. The school closed in 2002.


Settlement 37 km south-east of Inglewood. The Ngāti Maru village of Pūrangi was the most distant major Māori settlement on the Waitara River. The first Pākehā settlers took up land in 1891. St Peter’s Anglican Church (1906) was the only remnant of the village in the 2010s.

Lake Rātāpiko

Storage lake for Trustpower’s Motukawa power station, which was commissioned in 1927. Water is conveyed 5 km to the lake by water race from a dam on the Manganui River. It is then drawn off through a tunnel to the power station at Tarata, and discharged into the nearby Waitara River.


Township 10 km south-east of Inglewood on State Highway 3. The area around Tariki was surveyed in the 1880s by Edwin Brookes, who recorded the small Māori kāinga (village) of Tariki – one of the few known kāinga in the forested area east of the mountain.

New Plymouth

New Plymouth

Taranaki’s only city, on the west coast of the North Island 365 km south of Auckland and 352 km north of Wellington, with a 2013 urban-area population of 51,303. New Plymouth was the region’s first Pākehā settlement and has always been the largest. The city is the administrative centre of the New Plymouth District Council.


Originally called Ngāmotu (the islands), the site of New Plymouth was occupied for hundreds of years by Māori. More than 60 and kāinga (village) sites have been recorded in the urban area.

Chiefly centre

One of the most important pā in the area was the fortress of Puke Ariki (hill of the chiefs) at the mouth of the Huatoki Stream in central New Plymouth. After the arrival of the first Pākehā settlers it was renamed Mt Eliot and became the administrative centre of the township. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the hill was progressively removed for river-mouth fill. The site is now home to Puke Ariki library, museum and information centre.

Pākehā traders set up a trading station at Ngāmotu in 1828, but it was not until 1841–42 that planned settlement by the Plymouth Company brought 868 immigrants from Devon and Cornwall in England to the ‘New‘ Plymouth. The town site was chosen because of its fertile land, gentle terrain and sheltered beach (none of the river mouths were suitable as ports).

As a result of intertribal fighting over land sales, British troops were stationed in New Plymouth in 1855. In 1860 war between Pākehā and Māori broke out over a disputed land sale at Waitara. A decade of intermittent conflict followed, severely curtailing the development of the town and the surrounding area. New Plymouth’s population fell from 2,944 in 1864 to 1,837 in 1871.

Modesty is a virtue

Visitor Edward Payton wrote about New Plymouth’s reputation after touring the country in 1876: ‘All the great bustling “cities” of the Colony had a patronising way of trying to snub New Plymouth, referring to it in such derogatory terms as the dullest hole in the country ... I cannot say I find this impression correct; in fact I have a great liking for this “slow, old hole” ... [It] is a quiet, unassuming place and has not done so much to attract immigrants and settlers by exaggerating reports, as some districts have done. It seems to me a good sign that the settlers are perfectly contented, and rarely evince any disposition to leave it.’1

The end of fighting in the 1870s improved New Plymouth’s prospects. It did not grow as rapidly as the new settlements of Pātea and Waitara, but by 1885 it had a port and a rail link to Wellington. It remained the commercial and administrative centre of Taranaki. However, in the early 20th century population growth was slower than in the rural districts.

Throughout the 20th century New Plymouth’s population increased steadily. It gained city status (20,000 residents) in 1949.

Dairy farming remained the mainstay of the economy. After the Kapuni and Māui gas fields were discovered in the late 1950s and late 1960s respectively, the petroleum industry contributed to the local economy and brought workers and executives from all over the world to New Plymouth.

TSB Bank

The New Plymouth Savings Bank officially opened for business in 1850. The first deposit was made by Waitera Te Karei, who rode nearly 100 kilometres along the beach from Mōkau to deposit £35. By 1960 there were 14 more branches around Taranaki, and in 1964 the name was changed to Taranaki Savings Bank. After deregulation of the banking industry in 1984, most New Zealand banks became owned by overseas interests, but the Taranaki bank was determined to remain independent. In 1986, it adopted the name TSB Bank and began to operate nationwide.

The annual WOMAD (world of music and dance) festival, and redevelopment of the regional museum and city library (Puke Ariki), raised New Plymouth’s profile in the 2000s.


In 2013, 86.6% of people living in New Plymouth identified as European, 13.8% as Māori, 5.2% as Asian, 2.0% as Pacific Islanders and 0.6% as Middle Eastern, Latin American or African. The suburb of Marfell had a high Māori population, while Paraite had a high Asian population.

Cultural and recreational facilities

Major cultural and recreational facilities include:

  • the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, a leading contemporary art gallery which incorporates the Len Lye Centre
  • Yarrow Stadium, the home of Taranaki rugby, which in 2020 was being earthquake-strengthened and upgraded at a cost of $50 million
  • 52-hectare Pukekura Park. The Bowl of Brooklands, a natural amphitheatre in the park, hosts WOMAD.

Bell Block

Township 7 km east of New Plymouth, with a 2013 population of 5,277. Bell Block was named after Francis Dillon Bell, the New Zealand Company’s resident agent in Taranaki in 1847–48. In 1860 a stockade was built by European settlers on the hill overlooking the town – but many houses were still destroyed by Māori forces.

Extensive subdivisions in the 1960s and 1970s expanded the town so it effectively became part of New Plymouth. The city’s airport is in Bell Block.

Victoria crosses

Within a few kilometres of Ōmata several battles were fought during the 1860s Taranaki wars. The battle of Waireka (March 1860) took place on farmland to the north-west. Coxswain William Odgers of HMS Niger won a Victoria Cross there. In October 1863, at a battle on Allen’s Hill, Victoria Crosses were won by Drummer Dudley Stagpoole and Ensign John Down, both of the 57th Regiment.


Township 6 km south-west of New Plymouth on State Highway 45, with a 2013 population of 540. Ōmatā was established in the first few years of Pākehā settlement of the area. In 1860 the Ōmatā stockade (fort) was built on a hill near the township to protect the local farmers from Māori fighters.

In the 2000s little of Ōmatā township remained except the primary school and tiny St John’s Church (1875).

    • Quoted in J. S. Tullett, The industrious heart: a history of New Plymouth. New Plymouth: New Plymouth City Council, 1981, p. 21. Back

Cape Egmont


Coastal town 13 km west of New Plymouth on State Highway 45, with a 2013 population of 1,380. The Kaitake Range shelters the town from cold southerly winds. Ōakura has been a sought-after residential area for many years because of its environment and fine beaches. Many lifestyle blocks have recently been developed on surrounding farmland.

In May 1863 the first conflict of the second Taranaki war took place near the mouth of the Wairau Stream on Ōakura beach, when 10 officers and men of the 57th Regiment were ambushed. Nine, including Captain Thomas Tragett, were killed. St Andrews Redoubt (1863) was put up after the Wairau ambush, on what is now private land overlooking Corbett Park and the Ōakura marae at the mouth of the river. Some of its earthworks survive.


Settlement 22 km south-west of New Plymouth. The Tātaraimaka block was bought by the New Zealand Company in 1847, but was abandoned during the first Taranaki war (1860–61).

The Taranaki tribe’s coastal Tātaraimaka was seized in 1818 by a northern war party which used muskets for the first time in Taranaki. Beside the pā is the site of St George’s redoubt, built in 1863 after the block was reoccupied by British troops. Buried there are 28 Māori killed during the battle at Katikara in June 1863. The sites are historic reserves.


Town and rural service centre 26 km south-west of New Plymouth on State Highway 45, with a 2013 population of 561. Ōkato is one of the three surviving northern Taranaki military settlements established in the 1860s (along with Urenui and Lepperton).

The Stony River (Hangatahua), which arises in the Ahukawakawa Swamp in Egmont National Park, flows past the western side of Ōkato. Blue Rātā Reserve on the banks of the river is home to a unique variety of northern rātā (Metrosideros robusta) which begins its life as a true tree. Usually northern rātā starts out as an epiphyte in the canopy of a host tree which it eventually overshadows.


Settlement 31 km south-west of New Plymouth. The Ngā Māhanga sub-tribe’s Tarawainuku marae is home to Te Toka-a-Rauhoto, in Māori tradition the guiding stone of Taranaki Maunga when he fled from the central North Island. The stone was relocated to Pūniho in 1948.


Settlement 35 km south-west of New Plymouth, where the German missionary Johann Riemenschneider established a mission station in 1846. Two of his students, Te Whiti-o-Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi, later attained fame as the leaders of Parihaka’s passive resistance movement against land sales.

There were a number of military engagements in the area during the 1860s, and the 43rd Regiment built a redoubt on the coast near the end of Stent Road in 1865. The ocean swells of ‘Stent Road’ are one of New Zealand’s classic surf breaks.


Settlement 42 km south-west of New Plymouth and 23 km north of Ōpunake, established as a base for the 1881 military invasion of Parihaka pā a few km away.

A shining light

The 20-metre-high cast-iron tower of Cape Egmont lighthouse, which stands on the westernmost point of Taranaki, was manufactured in Britain in 1864. Erected on Mana Island near Wellington in 1865, it was moved to Cape Egmont in 1881. The keepers lived alongside the lighthouse until it was automated in 1986. The original lens has been reinstalled in a replica – but non-functioning – tower at the Cape Egmont boating club.


The Māori village of Parihaka was established by Te Whiti-o-Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi among the lahar hills inland from Cape Egmont in the late 1860s, and became the centre of a passive resistance movement against confiscations of Māori land. In 1881 the township was invaded by more than 1,500 government and volunteer troops. The leaders were arrested and most of the residents forcibly dispersed.

After Te Whiti and Tohu’s returned, Parihaka again became a focus for Taranaki Māori. It declined in the mid-20th century, but was later rejuvenated. In 2006 it became the base for the annual Parihaka International Peace Festival.


Township 16 km north-west of Ōpunake and 46 km south-west of New Plymouth, established in 1886. The anchor of the ship Harriet, wrecked nearby in 1834, is mounted outside the hotel. The military expedition to rescue crew members and the owner’s wife, Betty Guard, resulted in the first conflict between Māori and British troops.


Ōaonui, 9 km north of Ōpunake, is the site of the Māui gas-field production station and information centre. Shell Todd Oil Services processes gas and condensate from the offshore Māui field here and pumps it to New Plymouth.


Coastal town 64 km south-west of New Plymouth and 43 km north-west of Hāwera, with a 2013 population of 1,335. Ōpunake is the main rural service town for Taranaki’s coastal region.

On the coast just north of the town is Te Namu pā. In 1833 local chief Wiremu Kīngi Moki Matakātea held off a war party from Waikato for several weeks with a single musket, and eventually triumphed. In 1865 the Ōpunake redoubt was occupied by the 70th Regiment, but little trace of it remains.

Ōpunake Bay is a popular holiday spot and camping ground. The Egmont County Council was based in Ōpunake until it became part of South Taranaki District in 1989.

A branch railway to Ōpunake from the New Plymouth–Wellington line was laid in 1926. The section between Ōpunake and Kapuni was closed in 1976.

Waimate plain

Waimate plain

The Waimate plain, north-west of Hāwera on the southern ring plain, was once one of New Zealand’s most densely populated rural areas. There were small communities, often centred on a dairy factory or school, at nearly every intersection of the grid of roads in the area. However, Mākākā, Te Kiri, Awatuna, Riverlea, Auroa, Mangawhero, Mātapu, Ōtākeho, Ōeo and Mangatoki all but disappeared in the later 20th century. The district’s population fell sharply during this period – the population of Waimate West County dropped from 2,788 in 1951 to 1,944 in 1981. The closure of many schools in 2004 and 2005 was the final blow for many townships.


Settlement on the northern edge of the fertile Waimate plain 13 km west of Eltham, with a 2013 population of 303. In the early 20th century Kaponga vied with neighbouring Manaia to be the area’s main rural service township, but Manaia won.

Hollard Gardens is a formerly private garden planted by Bernard Hollard from 1927. Now administered by the Taranaki Regional Council, it is open to the public.


Settlement, and site of natural gas field, 19 km south-west of Eltham. The 1959 discovery of the Kapuni field of gas and condensate (light, liquid hydrocarbons) began the modern era of the petroleum industry in Taranaki. Since then, the area has been one of Taranaki’s centres of the petrochemical industry. The natural gas processing station separates gas and condensate and then supplies the gas to the Natural Gas Corporation for distribution. Ballance Agri-Nutrients, which was set up as Petrochem in 1982, manufactures urea fertiliser from natural gas in its nearby plant.

Fonterra Kapuni is a lactose (milk sugar) plant that opened in 1947. Lactose, for use in pharmaceutical products, is extracted from whey, a by-product of cheese manufacture at the Whareroa factory near Hāwera.

Swiss immigrants settled around Kaponga and Kapuni in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and a number of their descendants still farm in the area.

Near Kapuni is Te Ngutu-o-te-manu domain – the site of a battle in 1868 in which Ngāti Ruanui leader Tītokowaru routed a colonial force of Armed Constabulary and Forest Rangers. Flamboyant Prussian soldier Gustavus von Tempsky was killed in this battle.


Settlement 14 km north-west of Hāwera. In the 1880s Ōkaiawa was the centre of Thomas Joll’s chain of private dairy factories, which turned cooperative after Joll’s death in 1908. He is commemorated by a marble bust near the sportsground on the Ōkaiawa domain.


Settlement 17 km west of Hāwera on State Highway 45. Kaūpokonui (the great headland) was named by Turi, captain of the Aotea voyaging waka (canoe). The popular beach camp at the Kaūpokonui River mouth has been populated for hundreds of years and was the site of a moahunting settlement around 1300 CE.

Kaūpokonui was the site of one of Taranaki’s largest dairy cooperative factories until 1975, when it amalgamated with the T. L. Joll Co-operative to form Kiwi Co-operative Dairies.

The wreck of the Lizzie Bell

In July 1901 the iron barque Lizzie Bell ran aground on a reef near the mouth of the Ōeo Stream while sailing from Wellington to Australia. All 18 crew were able to get into the lifeboat, but it was overturned by the heavy seas. Twelve seamen died of exposure before the others could get help from local farmers. Ten bodies were recovered and are buried in the Pīhama cemetery.


Settlement 34 km north-west of Hāwera. Pīhama is named after Hone Pīhama (John Beecham), a local chief who provided protection for Pākehā surveyors in the 1880s. The gateway and ‘provision house’ (elevated storehouse) at nearby Ōtūmātua were painted by Charles Heaphy in 1840, while he and a party of surveyors were on their way to lay out the site of New Plymouth.


Township 15 km north-west of Hāwera, with a 2013 population of 960. Manaia was named after Hukunui Manaia, a paramount Māori chief of the district. It was the administrative centre of the Waimate West County Council and Manaia Town Board until both became part of South Taranaki District in 1989.

The town is surrounded by some of the richest dairy land in the country. In the 1940s and 1950s the ratio of dairy factories to kilometres of road was the highest in New Zealand. To help transport milk to the factories, Waimate West County began a major road-sealing project in 1916 and within a few years had some of the country’s best rural roads.

In the town’s central crossroads, an 1890 marble obelisk commemorates the Pākehā casualties of the 1868–69 Taranaki wars; a second obelisk and a band rotunda are First World War memorials. The Manaia redoubt has two 1880s blockhouses and a 1912 replica of the original lookout tower. Manaia is the site of Yarrows bakery, founded in 1923.

The on-shore production station for the off-shore Kupe oil and gas field is near the mouth of the Kapuni River, 4 km south-east of the town.



Main town and rural service centre for the southern Taranaki region, with a 2013 population of 8,517. Hāwera is 70 km south-east of New Plymouth and 90 km north-west of Whanganui.

Hāwera on fire

A major fire destroyed many buildings in Hāwera’s town centre in 1895. It started when a lamp fell over in a drapery store and spread from building to building – 17 were destroyed, including the Egmont Hotel, the new post office and the headquarters of the town’s newspaper. Two people were killed, both of them occupants of the hotel.


The town takes its name from the Māori village Te Hāwera, which was near Whareroa, south-east of the present town. In 1866 a government military base was established, and the town grew up around a blockhouse in the early 1870s. Its population increased by over 60% between 1878 and 1886.

Dairy farming and processing have been a mainstay of Hāwera’s economy since the late 19th century. The giant Fonterra milk-processing plant at Whareroa, a kilometre south of the town, is the largest single-site dairy factory in the southern hemisphere. Petroleum finds – the Rimu/Kauri and Kupe fields – and their associated developments have also maintained the town’s economy. Hāwera’s population grew rapidly in a time of rural prosperity after the Second World War (from 4,840 in 1945 to 8,142 in 1966) but has been relatively static since then.

Local writer Ronald Hugh Morrieson presented a dark, seamy version of mid-20th-century Hāwera in his novels. Many locals found his descriptions offensive. An attempt by fans to save his house from demolition in 1992 failed, partly because of this. It is now the site of a KFC restaurant.

Picnic at the

The large historic pā of Turuturumōkai is 2 km north of Hāwera. The pā, with its impressive earthworks, was a popular picnic place in the mid-20th century, and had a swimming pool and kiosk. At the eastern end of the reserve, within the earthworks of Turuturumōkai redoubt, is a memorial to the 10 men of the garrison who were killed during an attack by Tītokowaru’s forces under the command of Haowhenua in 1868.

Heritage and recreational facilities

Parks include King Edward Park and Naumai Park, a small bush and lake reserve. The town’s iconic concrete water tower was completed in 1914. The Elvis Presley Memorial Record Room, in a converted garage, has thousands of rare recordings and memorabilia of ‘the King’.


Rural settlement on an elevated marine terrace 12 km north-west of Hāwera.


Rural settlement 7 km north of Hāwera, with a 2013 population of 888. Normanby was named after the second Marquess of Normanby, governor of New Zealand from 1874 to 1879. The township was established in the 1870s, but the earlier Waihī military post had been established in 1866 by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas McDonnell. The massive wooden stockade and blockhouses were on the high ground overlooking the tiny Waihī cemetery and an old pā site, Mangamanga. The post was manned by troops until 1885.

In the cemetery is a memorial to the Pākehā soldiers killed in 1868 at Turuturumōkai and Te Ngutu-o-te-manu. The Normanby domain was the site of the 1879 Ketemarae redoubt, and is the site of another memorial to Pākehā casualties of the 1868–69 conflicts.

The Ngāti Ruanui marae of Ketemarae is 2 km north-east of Normanby. One of the meeting houses here, Kumea-mai-te-waka, officially dates from 1902, but includes some structural elements from a much earlier house.

Big birds and people

Ōhawe was one of New Zealand’s productive moa-hunter sites. It was first recognised as ‘a regular necropolis’1 by the Reverend Richard Taylor in 1843 during one of his pastoral walks. W. D. B. Mantell followed in 1847 and was the first to recognise that humans and moa had co-existed here. In 1866 Taylor returned with Governor George Grey to collect specimens.


Coastal settlement 8 km west of Hāwera at the mouth of the Waingongoro River. Ōhawe is one of New Zealand’s earliest settled places. The first people hunted several species of moa and other birds here about 1300 CE.

Ōhawe township was founded as a military settlement. In 1865 troops under the command of General Duncan Cameron reached the river as they advanced up the west coast from Whanganui. Two redoubts were constructed – one on each side of the rivermouth. Many of the British and colonial troops who died in the later battles are buried in the cemetery at Ōhawe.

The short-lived ‘Republic of Hāwera’ was based in Ōhawe. It was founded by James Livingston in 1879 out of frustration at the lack of government action after Te Whiti’s followers ploughed up his land. Volunteers patrolled the area and prevented further ploughing.


Rural settlement 10 km south-east of Hāwera, founded as a military settlement. Commissioned in 2002, Swift Energy’s production station for the Rimu/Kauri oil field was constructed on the coastal terrace between the Tangahoe and Manawapou rivers.

Tāwhiti Museum

Museum 3 km north-east of Hāwera, based in the former Hāwera Dairy Company’s Tāwhiti branch factory. The museum’s founders and creators, Nigel and Teresa Ogle, have constructed an impressive series of exhibitions about local history using life-sized figures and scale model panoramas.

Taiporohēnui Marae

Large Ngāti Ruanui marae north-east of Hāwera. Taiporohēnui has a wharenui (meeting house) called Whareroa. An earlier marae here was razed by government military forces in 1866.

    • T. Lindsay Buick, The moa-hunters of New Zealand: sportsmen of the Stone Age. New Plymouth: Thomas Avery, 1937, p. 38. Back



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.

Inland Taranaki


Rural settlement 10 km east of Stratford on State Highway 43 (the ‘Forgotten World Highway’). Toko is on the edge of the Taranaki ring plain. The township was the most viable of those between Stratford and Taumarunui in the early 2000s.

Douglas brick and tile

Douglas was home to a brick and pipeworks, one of the few in Taranaki. It was established by Alf Emeny in 1920 and featured a Hoffman kiln with an impressive 30-metre chimney. The kiln and chimney were demolished for safety reasons in 1985. A smaller kiln, also part of the brickworks, has been preserved as part of the State Highway 43 heritage trail.


Locality 16 km north-east of Stratford on State Highway 43. Along with its store, dairy factory, railway and school, the township had a boarding house which was, for many years, an obligatory overnight stop for stockbuyers or commercial travellers from Stratford.


Locality 30 km north-east of Stratford. Strathmore was named after a Scottish valley, the original home of one of the area’s first Pākehā settlers.

A side road from Strathmore leads to Mākāhu and then to the farm settlement of Aotuhia. The Matemateaonga walkway to the Whanganui River begins at the Kōhī Saddle near Mākāhu.

Te Wera

Locality 37 km north-east of Stratford. Te Wera was the headquarters for extensive experimental plantings of exotic timber trees by the New Zealand Forest Service in the mid-20th century. The Forest Service base is now a recreational camp and arboretum.


Locality 50 km north-east of Stratford. The road over the Pohokura Saddle crosses the second of four ridges which isolate inland Taranaki. Early in the 20th century it was the site of a major tent-camp ‘township’ for railway construction workers and their families.


Rural settlement 65 km north-east of Stratford on State Highway 43, with a 2013 district population of 150. Sections became available at Whangamōmona in 1897–98. A boarding house and a general store were established, and a post office and other services followed. The present hotel is a 1911 replacement of the original, which burned down in 1905.

The Whangamomona County Council was set up in 1908 and amalgamated with Stratford County in 1955. In the second half of the 20th century all the communities in the valley gradually declined. The school was closed in 1979 and the post office in 1988.

Locals half-jokingly declared Whangamōmona a republic when the local government reforms of 1989 made the town part of Manawatū–Wanganui rather than Taranaki. The biennial republic day draws thousands of visitors from all over the North Island. The hotel is now a popular weekend stopover.


Locality 5 km north of Whangamōmona. Named after a surveyor’s dog which was killed by a boar, in 2020 Marco had the area’s only remaining school, with a roll of 14. Along the unsealed Marco Road there are remnants of the brick-like mudstone that was used to surface roads before metal from outside the area became available.


Locality 8 km north-east of Whangamōmona. Once a thriving railway settlement, Kōhuratahi now has only its public hall and a roadside war memorial. The monument records that 41 out of 131 local servicemen perished in the First World War, mostly on the Western Front in 1917–18.


Locality 19 km north-east of Whangamōmona on State Highway 43. The highway winds along the Tahora Saddle before descending to Tahora, the last settlement before the Tāngarākau Gorge and the Ōhura valley. A few kilometres past the junction, a new road, completed in 1984, allows travellers to reach New Plymouth via Ahitītī. The 85-metre Mount Damper Falls are accessible from this road.


Locality 23 km north-east of Whangamōmona, off State Highway 43. In the early 20th century Tāngarākau was a base for building the railway from Stratford to the main trunk line, including driving six of the 24 tunnels. In 1925 the town had a population of 1,200. It boasted a bakery, several stores, a drapery, hairdresser and tobacconist, fruiterer, library, doctor, boarding house, sports fields, maternity home and school. It had three separate areas, for single men, married couples with children, and married couples without children – the ‘seedless raisin’ section. In the 2010s few houses remained.

Tāngarākau Gorge

The Tāngarākau River flows through a spectacular gorge from the farmland of the Ōhura valley. About halfway through is the grave of pioneer surveyor Joshua Morgan, who died there in 1893, aged 35 – probably of peritonitis. Several coal mines operated in the gorge in the 1920s and 1930s.



Town 48 km south-east of New Plymouth and 30 km north of Hāwera at the junction of state highways 3 and 43, with a 2013 population of 5,463.

Poetic licence

Stratford was originally named Stratford-on-Patea at the suggestion of William Crompton of the Taranaki Waste Lands Board, who had already unsuccessfully attempted to have Inglewood named after an English poet (Milton). Crompton commented that England ‘had a poet born at Stratford-on-Avon, and might not New Zealand produce one at Stratford-on-Patea’.1 He got his wish, eventually – Michele Leggott, New Zealand’s poet laureate in 2008–9, began life in Stratford.


Stratford was established on the Pātea River in 1877–78 and named after William Shakespeare’s birthplace Stratford-on-Avon. Many of the streets are named after Shakespearean characters, including Oberon, Cordelia, Titania, Juliet and Hamlet. The town is central Taranaki’s main rural servicing centre, and the administrative base of the Stratford District Council and the Taranaki Regional Council.

The Waihapa oil and gas field, discovered in 1988, and its production station are 6 km south-east. The Stratford Mountain House and Dawson Falls Lodge in Egmont National Park can be accessed from the town.

The first talking movies in the southern hemisphere were shown at the King’s Theatre in 1925. Stratford has seven war memorials; a hall of remembrance at the old municipal buildings displays framed photos of all of the district’s First World War dead. The Stratford glockenspiel clock performs a sequence from Romeo and Juliet four times daily.


Township 6 km north-west of Stratford, with a 2013 population of 234. Midhirst is named after James Hirst, an early settler.

One of the most distinctive features of the township is the towering concrete and glass milk-powder drying plant, which was one of New Zealand’s most advanced in its time (1980). The factory closed after amalgamating with Kiwi Dairies in 1983.

York Road, 2 km north of Midhirst, leads to Egmont National Park. In the park, the York Road Loop Track follows the Egmont branch line railway, laid about 1905–6 to carry road metal from a quarry on the mountain. The line was closed in 1951 after years of decline.


Settlement 6 km south-west of Stratford. In the 2000s little remained of Cardiff except its large concrete war memorial at the junction of Ōpunake and Cardiff roads. The Cardiff Centennial Walk winds along the bush-covered banks of the Waingongoro River to two weirs built to supply water to the nearby dairy factory.


Settlement 16 km south-west of Stratford. Rowan was named after Frederic Rowan, formerly of the 43rd Regiment, who joined the Armed Constabulary and was severely wounded during the attack on Te Ngutu-o-te-manu in 1868. His wife, Ellis Rowan, became one of Australia’s most celebrated flower painters after the couple later settled there.


Settlement 6 km south of Stratford. Ngaere sits on the western edge of what was once a vast swamp of around 4,000 hectares. The swamp had engulfed a forest, the remains of which rose to the surface as the land dried. In 1869 the Ngāti Ruanui leader Tītokowaru used the maze of swamps to escape from pursuing Armed Constabulary led by Colonel George Whitmore. Most of the wetland was later drained and became pasture.

From the late 19th century until the 1930s Ngaere was the site of the impressive Ngaere Gardens.


Rennet is an enzyme produced by newborn calves to digest milk and is essential in the making of cheese. It is extracted from calves’ stomachs after they have been slaughtered. During the First World War, supplies of rennet from Europe were drastically cut. The New Zealand Co-operative Rennet Company was established in Eltham in 1916 and became a major world supplier of the enzyme. Sold as ‘Renco’, rennet was used to make junket, a solidified milk dessert similar to yogurt. Renco New Zealand was still operating in 2020.


Town 10 km south of Stratford on State Highway 3, with a 2013 population of 1,941. Eltham was named after a village in Greenwich, England. Pākehā settlers began occupying nearby rural land in the late 1870s, and the town was established in 1884. Local businessman Charles Wilkinson had a major impact on the town both economically and politically.

In 1887 Chinese merchant Chew Chong established the Jubilee dairy factory – one of New Zealand’s first – alongside the Waingongoro Stream, and in 1916 the New Zealand Co-operative Rennet Company was founded in the township.

Major employers in the 2010s were the ANZCO Foods Riverlands beef-processing plant and Fonterra’s Mainland factory, which manufactured specialty cheeses and processed and packaged products from the company’s other sites.

Lake Rotokare

17.8-hectare lake 12 km east of Eltham, set in the 230-hectare Rotokare Scenic Reserve. In 2007 a pest-proof fence was built around the reserve and the reintroduction of endangered native birds, reptiles and invertebrates began.

    • Taranaki Herald, 22 September 1890, p. 2. Back

Egmont National Park

Lush rainforest grows on the lower slopes of 2,518-metre Taranaki Maunga (Mt Taranaki, formerly Mt Egmont), with subalpine shrublands and alpine herbfields at higher altitudes. The kāmahi forest on the middle slopes is known as goblin forest because of its trailing moss and gnarled trees.

North Egmont

The North Egmont Visitor Centre, accessed from Egmont Village via Egmont Road, is at an altitude of 978 m.

German immigrant and farmer Harry Peters pioneered the current route to North Egmont via Kaimiro in the late 1880s. Before then, most climbs were made after crossing the Pouākai Range.

The new route became popular, and visitor accommodation was needed. Peters was responsible for moving part of the former New Plymouth military barracks to North Egmont in 1891. The 1855 building had been used as barracks on Marsland Hill, New Plymouth, during the Taranaki wars. It is one of the world’s oldest corrugated-iron structures. Known as The Camphouse since 1977, it continues to provide accommodation for visitors in the 2020s.

Nearby on the Holly Hut Track is a memorial to Arthur Ambury, who lost his life in 1918 trying to save his companion W. E. Gourlay, who had slipped on ice. Both men fell over a bluff and died.

The Pouākai Circuit is a two-day walk through a range of vegetation. It passes the Ahukawakawa Swamp, which is home to plants adapted to acidic conditions and very low temperatures.

Home-made skis


The first known skier on Mt Taranaki was R. Tyrer, in 1917. In 1929 Frank Addis made his own ski contraptions, more than a metre long, which he lashed to his boots like crampons. He tried them out in the crater but found that they were highly unstable.


Manganui skifield

The Manganui Ski Area, in Egmont National Park on the eastern side of Mt Taranaki, is run on a volunteer basis by the Stratford Mountain Club. The club was established in 1928, and its first skiing championships were held in 1932. The club’s base, Manganui Hut, was erected in 1931. Destroyed by fire in 2002, it was replaced in 2004.

Dawson Falls

Māori named the falls on the Kapuni Stream Te Rere-o-Noke (Noke’s falls) after the fugitive Noke, who hid from his pursuers under them. In 1883 they were named after Thomas Dawson, the first Pākehā to discover them.

The first Dawson Falls lodge opened in 1896, and was managed for many years by local mountaineer Jim Murphy. Electricity is supplied to the hostel by one of New Zealand’s oldest surviving hydroelectric plants, which was brought to Dawson Falls in 1935.

A chequered career


The hydroelectric generator at Dawson Falls – powered by water from the Kapuni Stream – was built by the General Electric Company of Schenectady, New York, around 1901. Details of its life before its installation in Egmont National Park in 1935 are unclear – but it is thought to have been used in Tasmania, in military camps in Wellington, and to light the Wellington cable car.


Opened in 1952, Kapuni Lodge is 1,400 m above sea level on the eastern slope of Fanthams Peak. It is the headquarters of the Hāwera-based Mt Egmont Alpine Club.

Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust

Set between the Kaitake and Pouākai ranges of Egmont National Park, the land for the Pukeiti rhododendron garden was purchased in 1950 and a trust was formed in 1951 to oversee its development.

More than 20 kilometres of tracks lead through the 360-hectare property. The rhododendron collection is the largest in the southern hemisphere, with hundreds of varieties. The garden is named after nearby Pukeiti (little hill), which is a rounded hill of lava (a cumulodome).

External links and sources

More suggestions and sources

How to cite this page: Ron Lambert, 'Taranaki places', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 June 2024)

Story by Ron Lambert, published 11 December 2009, updated 1 September 2016