Learning & Research - Akoranga me Rangahau
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Taranaki Stories

These stories capture the very essence of Taranaki – the people and the landscape.
They record the achievements of those who live here, the struggles of the first settlers, the determination to overcome challenges, those who have made their mark on not only their own, but also future generations.
But the stories are not just about hardship – they are also inspiring, thrilling, mystifying, enlightening and entertaining.


Natural World

Many eruptions: Mount Taranaki is called the Egmont Volcano by geologists. Image: Private collection

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Taranaki has a wild volcanic history and the geological wonders of its landscape stand as testament to it. Fossils reveal the wildlife of the past – wildlife that no longer exists today - and ancient Maori hunting sites are revealed by the elements. There are also those who cultivate the natural world to create wondrous parks, amazing plants and calming gardens – not for nothing is Taranaki home to 10 New Zealand Gardens of Significance. Our fauna are also a vital part of the ecological diversity of the area – but a threatened one. But there is hope with work being done to save the Blue Duck, the Taranaki Gecko and the North Island Brown Kiwi. Less endangered but still part of a natural order are cats and rats – read how they have made their own impact. Go back to nature – just for a while.

A Dozen Moa Facts

Scientists believe moa became extinct about 500 years ago, about 1500AD.  Moa were flightless birds. They belonged to a primitive group of birds known as ratites. A kiwi is a ratite.   There were 11 different species of moa. Moa are the only birds in the world that did not have wing bones. Imagine Big Bird on Sesame Street – that's about the size of the largest of moa, Dinornis giganteus. At... more

A Plague of Rats

In May 1900, a huge swarm of rats emerged from the bush at Awakino and headed down to the riverbank. Settlers were amazed.  Where had they come from and where were they going? they wondered.  When the rats took to the water, swam to the other side of the Awakino River and headed to Mokau, curiosity gave way to alarm.    At Mokau there was little anyone could do except barricade their houses and... more

A Sober Experience

Sir William Fox was on a mission. The 78-year-old former Prime Minister was a teetotaller and wanted to demonstrate that a life of alcohol abstinence could lessen the effects of advancing age. Abstaining from alcohol, he believed, had given him the fortitude of a man 33 years younger. The social reformer and campaigner against bar maids was going to climb Mount Taranaki to prove it.   To the... more

A wild and wicked Childhood- the Ollivers of Opunake Beach

The names of people are often synonymous with where they live, and you can't talk of Opunake without mention of the Olliver clan.    Twelve Olliver children - the offspring of Hilton (Skelly) and Mabel - were born a year or two apart between the years of 1916 and 1936.    They were destined to become the first permanent dwellers at Opunake Beach after what was meant to be a two week holiday... more

Bringing Back the Blue Duck

If you've ever been whitewater rafting you'll know what rapids are: churning water cascading past rocks, a powerful force tumbling down the river. This apparently hostile environment is what the blue duck, or whio, calls home. This little duck can handle white water but is in danger of becoming extinct thanks to mankind.   Duck facts The whio's isolation in New Zealand has resulted in it... more

Ernst Dieffenbach – the first European to climb Mount Taranaki?

Ernst Dieffenbach was looking for a challenge. The 28-year-old German was a naturalist travelling on the Tory with colonist E.J Wakefield. It was 1839 and the ship was lying offshore of the future New Plymouth. Before Ernst stood a conical shaped cone mountain, rising majestically above a forest of green, a tuft of cloud hovering over its summit. No man had ever set foot on Mount Egmont's... more

Fantham’s Peak – Fanny’s Tale

Fanny Fantham was a high spirited teenager with a zest for life. In March 1887 Fanny was in a large climbing group ascending Mount Taranaki. Climbing was hot and difficult for the women in the group as they had to wear full street dress, which included long dresses and corsets. But Fanny had shortened her dress and was wearing lace-up boots that made climbing easier. The nineteen-year-old... more

Gecko With Taranaki Stripes

Taranaki's only native lizard has colours befitting the region's sports teams. While it has no black, it's definitely got the amber. The Taranaki gold striped gecko was ‘discovered’ in 1977 by New Plymouth pharmacist David Wilkinson. He got hooked on reptiles two years before when he got his hands on some of the slinky creatures. "I caught some skinks at home and the kids said 'Daddy can... more

Geological wonders of Taranaki

Giant crabs, ‘vegetable soup’, telltale terraces, brazil-nut rocks, undersea mountains and a surprisingly warm heart are all among Taranaki's hidden mysteries. Geologist Vincent Neall has studied the New Zealand region's earthly wonders since 1968 and continues to be stunned by his findings. With the enthusiasm of a children's storyteller, Vince picks out seven marvels that make the bump on... more

Guardians of the Environment

The Taranaki Regional Council is Taranaki's major environmental agency. Serving a community of 102,858 people, it undertakes the sustainable management of our natural and physical resources.     Its mission for the region is to ‘promote the sustainable use, development and protection of Taranaki's natural and physical resources’ and to ‘safeguard Taranaki's people and resources from natural and... more

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