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Taranaki, New ZealandNew Plymouth History

New Plymouth | Regional Information | Activity Highlights | Scenic Highlights | History

Explore the rich cultural and natural history of New Plymouth and the Taranaki region.

New Plymouth History Overview

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Maori Carved Figure with Moko, New Zealand
Maori Carved Figure with Moko
Photographer: Adventure Films
(www.nzphotography.com)

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

European traders started trading in the area by setting up a station at Ngamotu in 1828 when Richard "Dicky" Barrett arrived, but New Plymouth wasn't born until 1841-42 when the New Plymouth Company brought 868 immigrants from the West of England namely Devon and Cornwall to 'New' Plymouth in the far flung outpost of the British Empire.

The first of the settlers arrived on board the ship William Bryan which anchored off the coast in 31 March 1841. This site was chosen because of its fertile land, gentle terrain and sheltered beach.

The Taranaki Wars

By 1855 the British had stationed a garrison in New Plymouth in response to intertribal fighting. In 1860 war broke out between the British and Maori over a proposed sale of land at Waitara.

New Plymouth became a fortified garrison town during the war with more than 3,500 Imperial British soldiers stationed there in various degrees during the war, plus volunteers and militia. They fought perhaps 800 Maori during the First Taranaki War of 1860-1861.

The fighting did not end for good until the 1870s, and the town suffered heavily by 1871 the population of New Plymouth had fallen from 2,944 in 1864 to 1,837.

Post War and Development

After the fighting, New Plymouth again started to grow albeit slowly, but by 1885 it had a port of its own, rail links to the province and down to the capital Wellington. Throughout the 20th century New Plymouth has continued to grow steadily and by 1949 with 20,000 inhabitants it gained city status.

Today dairy farming dominates the rich plains of Taranaki and the local economy together with the petroleum industry dominates the local economy.

Mount Taranaki/Egmont Mythology

Mount Taranaki/Egmont dominates the inland view from New Plymouth and lies only a short drive from the city. In Maori mythology, Mount Taranaki once lived in the middle of the North Island together with all the other New Zealand volcanoes.

Mount Taranaki and Mount Tongariro both fell in love with Mouth Pihanga (a female volcano), they then fought each other with Mount Tongariro banishing Mount Taranaki to the west coast. When Mount Taranaki is concealed in rainclouds he is said to be crying for his lost love, during spectacular sunsets he is showing off to her. In turn when Mount Tongariro erupts he is warning Mount Taranaki not to dare to return.

New Plymouth Accommodation

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Useful New Plymouth Links

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New Plymouth Region Information

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Featured

 
Mainstay New Zealand Hotels

Mainstay NZ Hotels

Large collection of independent hotels.

Choice Hotels

Choice Hotels

Holiday packages for any occasion.

Distinction Hotels

Distinction Hotels

Great hotels in great NZ wide locations.