From 1846 to 1852 Taranaki was administered from Auckland as part of the province of New Ulster. The New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 then established six provinces, including Taranaki, which was called New Plymouth until 1858. From 1853 Taranaki’s provincial government was responsible for administration in the region.
The provinces were abolished in 1876 and were replaced by borough and county councils. By the 1920s there were 16 Taranaki councils. They were reduced to three district councils – New Plymouth, Stratford and South Taranaki – when local government was reorganised in 1989.
Taranaki Regional Council was also formed in 1989. Based in Stratford, it administers water resources, pest plant and animal control, and soil conservation, and provides emergency management during natural disasters. It is also the controlling authority of Port Taranaki.
Tailor-made for politics
Walter Nash, later to be a Labour prime minister, was the part-owner of Modern Tailors, a cooperative venture in New Plymouth, from 1915 to 1920. In 1918 he formed the New Plymouth branch of the Labour Party and was its first secretary. Nash’s tailoring initiative ended in disagreement and court action among its partners, and he left for Wellington in 1920.
Although the boundaries and names have varied, the Taranaki region has always had either three or four electorates. Two or three were largely rural, and consistently returned National MPs following the creation of the party in 1936. The largely urban New Plymouth electorate has swung between electing National and Labour members in the late 20th century and early 2000s.
In the 2010s there were three electorates: New Plymouth, Whanganui and Taranaki–King Country.
Taranaki was part of the Western Māori electorate from 1867 until 1996. It was included in Te Puku o te Whenua and became part of Te Tai Hauāuru electorate in 2002.
National politicians of note from Taranaki have included Harry Atkinson, Māui Pōmare and Peter Buck (Te Rangi Hīroa).
Reaching for the stars
Astrophysicist Beatrice Tinsley was born in the United Kingdom in 1941, but came to New Plymouth with her family in 1950. Her father, Edward Hill, was an Anglican minister, and her mother, Jean, a writer. Hill was mayor of New Plymouth from 1953 to 1956, and Beatrice was educated at New Plymouth Girls’ High School. She was dux in 1957 before going to Canterbury University College for an MSc and then to the University of Texas to undertake PhD on the origin of galaxies. She eventually became a professor of astronomy at Yale.
In the early 2000s the number of primary schools fell markedly as the rural population decreased. The closures were particularly noticeable in eastern and southern Taranaki, where the abandoned buildings attracted vandalism.
New Plymouth secondary schools included New Plymouth Boys’ High, New Plymouth Girls High, Spotswood College, Sacred Heart Girls’ College and Francis Douglas Memorial College. Other secondary schools were Coastal Taranaki (Ōkato), St Mary’s Diocesan (Stratford), and Ōpunake, Pātea, Hāwera, Stratford, Waitara and Inglewood high schools.
Intermediate schools were located in New Plymouth (Devon and Highlands schools), Waitara (Manukorihi) and Hāwera.
In the 2010s Taranaki District Health Board administered two hospitals. The Taranaki Base Hospital in New Plymouth was a 210-bed facility. Hāwera Hospital had 26 beds, and there were health centres in Mōkau, Waitara, Stratford, Ōpunake and Pātea.