With its intense Maori and colonial history, North Taranaki is an intriguing mix of beaches, golf courses, arts and crafts, gardens, walkways and sites of historic significance to all of New Zealand.
One of the first areas in New Zealand to be inhabited – even before the arrival of the great Maori fleets of the 14th century – the area was settled by four tribes tracing their ancestry to the Tokomaru Canoe…Ngati Tama, Ngati Mutunga, Ngati Maru and Te Atiawa.
Shellfish beds, fishing grounds, forests and rich soil supported a large population, and swamps in the area have yielded treasured carvings placed in safekeeping during times of danger. The area is also noted for a range of eminent Maori identities who have been produced there, including physician/doctor/surgeon Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter Buck), and health/humanitarian/land rights campaigner Sir Maui Pomare.
Dairy farms, hill country beef and sheep farms, and energy will continue to make up the economic base of northern communities, but other surprising sources have recently made an impact. Tom Cruise and Warner Bros filmed The Last Samurai in 2002/03 in the area, and visitors to the region are still interested in the Japanese village built deep within a lush Uruti farm.
Waitara is North Taranaki’s largest town, established in 1839 and now one of the energy centres of the region with its giant Methanex methanol plants at Motunui and Waitara producing export methanol from natural gas piped to the plants from the Maui and Kapuni fields.
Other tiny towns offer a glimpse into the region’s past, along with gourmet coffee and superb cuisine from contemporary cafes. These include Mokau, Awakino, Urenui and Onaero.