The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]
Town Of New Plymouth. — New Plymouth
Town Of New Plymouth.
New Plymouth is the chief town of the province of Taranaki. It lies on the coast, with the lofty snow-clad volcanic peak of Mount Egmont rising in the background. In the early days the settlement was the scene of great difficulties with the natives, and of many years of warfare between the two races. On the 3rd of January, 1856, the brig “Ocean” landed troops from Auckland. At that time there were no barracks, and the military camped on the site of the town. The arrival was in consequence of the inter-tribal warfare among the natives themselves. At the beginning of the following year disturbances between the rival natives ceased, but in the month of December, of the same year, there were further hostilities. On the 6th of March, 1859, H.M.S. “Iris” arrived off the coast with his Excellency the Governor on board, the native chief Wi Kingi with his Maoris having refused to allow the whites to occupy and take possession of the land they had acquired. Martial law was proclaimed on the 23rd of February, 1860, and at that time the settlers were compelled to flock into New Plymouth for safety. During the troublesome times that followed, St. Mary's Anglican churchyard was used by the military as a stockade, and the church itself as a picket house. The Maoris had been burning and destroying the property of the settlers, in all directions around New Plymouth, and in July, 1860, they were within three miles of the town itself. In fact, they threatened to lay siege to the town, and murders were reported every day. Women and children were accommodated in the old barracks at Marsland Hill, and an attack was hourly expected. The camp at Waireka was besieged; at Tataraimaka, Omata, and other places, within a few miles of the town, every home was destroyed, and the cattle of the settlers driven away; and New Plymouth, to all intents and purposes, was in a state of seige. This period of Taranaki's history is fully dealt with in the general introduction to this volume; and now, in spite of and partly in consequence of all that has happened, the province is covered with homesteads and thriving townships, and New Plymouth is the centre of a beautiful, fertile, and well cultivated district.
New Plymouth is connected with Wellington by 251 miles of railway, via the Manawatu line, and by 297 miles, via the Wairarapa railway, to Te Aro station. The line is also continued to the port of Waitara on the north, and to the breakwater on the south. Steamers trade every day between the breakwater and the Manakau, One-hunga. With the construction of the breakwater the danger and inconveniences of the open roadstead have been removed, and steamers now lie at the wharf, and discharge cargo and land passengers in safety and comfort. Trains and busses run from the breakwater to the town.
To tourists and visitors, Mount Egmont is, of course, the chief attraction, and is reached by a good buggy road to within six miles of the summit: but the excursionist has the choice of two or three other routes along each of which there are views of noble scenery. The National Park of nearly 80,000 acres is under the control of four Forest Boards; that for the northern division has its headquarters in New Plymouth; that for the southern, at Hawera; for the eastern, Stratford; and for the western, Rahotu.
Great expectations are indulged in by the New Plymouth people in connection with the inexhaustible supplies of ironsand on the coastline of Taranaki; and also in respect to the mineral oil in the neighbourhood. Indeed, the Moturoa Petroleum Company, which had been operating for some time, was successful, in 1906, in tapping an unusually strong flow of oil. The prospects were such that shares, which were valued at £5, advanced to £60, in a short time. This lead to the floating of a company, with a capital sufficient to work the oil field, and erect a refinery to put the oil on the market page 49 ready for household purposes. Other companies were projected, as there were other and highly promising prospects.
New Plymouth is built on low undulating hills extending from the sea shore to the slope of Marsland Hill. Over these hills many cuttings have been necessary for roading purposes. The natural drainage is by the Huatoki stream, which flows through the borough into the sea. The town's general market day is Saturday, and the weekly half-holiday is held on Thursday. The local industries include a timber and woodware factory, an iron foundry, coachbuilding, and boot factories, meat packing and freezing works. All the various trades and businesses in the colony are represented, and there is also a considerable number of large wholesale houses. The five banks doing business in the colony are represented by branches. The principal retail street is Devon Street, which runs through the town, and is crossed by such streets as Liardet, Currie, and Brougham; in the latter of which there are many offices and warehouses, as well as a number of retail establishments. The suburbs include Fitzroy, Westown and Beaconsfield. St. Mary's historic church contains flags and hatchments representing the Imperial Regiments that served in Taranaki; and in the churchyard fronting Vivian Street, a handsome Maltese granite cross, on a stone foundation, bears an inscription to the memory of Taranaki troopers, who fell in the South African war of 1899–1902. The population of the borough of New Plymouth, at the census of 1901, was 4405, and at the census of 1906, 5147.
The real port of New Plymouth is at Moturoa, about two miles from the town, close to the well known Sugar Loaves, which form a landmark to approaching vessels. A concrete mole or breakwater runs out in a north-easterly direction for a distance of 2,150 feet, and provides shelter for shipping. Wharf accommodation is provided for coastal steamers under the lee of the breakwater, and steamers of 1000 tons can be berthed in almost any state of the weather. The Government railway is extended from New Plymouth right on to the breakwater, and passengers can communicate direct with steamers. The exports include, butter, cheese, bacon and hams, as well as leather, hides, wool, and fungus. Moturoa is in constant communication with New Plymouth by road and railway. Trains run specially to suit the convenience of travellers, departing or arriving at the breakwater, and there is also frequent communication on good roads by coaches. Moturoa is the scene of the oil boring operations, and there are extensive freezing works owned by a Taranaki company. Several farms, homesteads, a local hotel, and workshops in connection with the breakwater, together with a number of residences, complete the features of the settlement.