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.



Tram #10 on its last night of operation, 23 July 1954. Image: Douglas Elliott

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Travelling by land, sea or air is not without its dangers and excitement. The Taranaki coast has claimed a number of ships on its rocks - you can still see the hulking, rusting skeletons if you know where to look. The remains of crashed planes are also out there on the mountain’s flanks – but no-one knows where to look. Read about the development of Taranaki’s highways and railways and marvel at the coming of steam. Men and their cars have a special relationship and Max McKay and Darryl Goble are no exception. And did the horses of Taranaki ever get used to the first car to arrive here? Find out here!

Cape Egmont Lighthouse

A fairytale figure with a wizard-like beard is the last keeper of the Cape Egmont Lighthouse. But these days, Bryan Richards is the keeper of the tower's story, not its light. The Welshman's skills became redundant in 1986 when he was replaced by an automatic light. He was 55. Instead of moving on from the navigational lifesaver, Bryan (72) and his wife Janet (65) retired on the land... more

Charles Brown goes down in history

Charles Brown came to the infant settlement of New Plymouth in 1841 to set up business with his father, Charles Armitage Brown, a friend of the poet Keats. Charles Brown senior died soon after, but his 21-year-old son remained and became a well-liked and respected member of the community. At 33 he was elected the Provincial Government's first superintendent in 1853. In 1859 he helped establish... more

Darracq dreaming: the little car from Patea

A little green and red car sits in an old Patea farm shed surrounded by walls of colourful road signs. Stepping into the shed is like going back in time - the car is over 100 years old, and the signs are a drive through the history of roads in New Zealand.   This is a special little car. It has been in the same family for over 100 years. The Durracq was bought by local identity James Livingston... more

Is it a car or a boat? Darryl Goble and the swimming car

A checklist on the dashboard of Darryl Goble's car is the first indication that the little red convertible is a bit different from the norm - the note reminds the driver to fit the bilge pump and secure the doors.   Other clues are at the back - a marine beacon pokes out of the boot and twin propellers sit between the two back wheels. Look closer and you'll notice the port and starboard... more

Joshua Morgan – Surveyor of the Forgotten World Highway

Joshua Morgan's life was ruled by inconstant weather.  In almost every entry in his diaries of 1892 and early 1893, he puts the weather first:   21 Feb, 1893  Wind NW. Light showers.  All the men, accompanied by G.F.R. and Mr Holdsworth, went to Putiki for a load of food.   22 Feb, 1893   Wind NE. Finished observing up to camp.   23 Feb, 1893 Wind NE. Light Showers.  Clarry went to... more

Lighthouse Living

Since she was a baby, Gwenyth Richards only knew life as a lighthouse keeper's daughter. That meant inhabiting the isolated, raw edges of New Zealand with sister Ceri as her closest friend. Then in 1976, lighthouse keeper Bryan Richards and his wife Janet shifted to Cape Egmont on the western-most tip of Taranaki. For Gwenyth (then 9) and Ceri (then 13) the move was a huge change to the... more

Mad Max the Citroēn crank – Max McKay

Back in the mid 1960s the little town of Manaia had more Citroens per head of capita than Paris - or so the urban myth goes.   Manaia was Citroen crazy - all thanks to Max Suter McKay - or ‘Mad Max the Citroen crank’ as he was known by the townsfolk.   Max loved Citroens and managed to convince a large portion of South Taranaki that the French car was the right one for them too. But who was... more

New Plymouth Trams 1916 - 1954

On 10 March 1916, New Plymouth could boast to be the smallest municipality in the world to run a tramway system. New Plymouth was also the last city to install an electric tram system.    Six trams made by Boon and Co of Christchurch started the service between Fitzroy and the Terminus Hotel (now know as the Tasman Towers).  Full service to the Port was to come also, but was initially delayed... more

Norma Schultz and the Bertrand Road Bridge

Norma Schultz's life is intertwined with the Bertrand Road Bridge. Her grandfather helped build the original bridge across the Waitara River, she was born on the Tikorangi side, crossed the bridge every day to go to school, and even met her future husband on the boards that span the mighty river. Bringing communities together A few planks of wood across a river can bridge more than water.... more

Once upon a time – a little railway story

Chug, chug, chug. Puff, puff, puff. Ding-dong, ding-dong. The little train rumbled over the tracks..." The Little Engine that Could, by Watty Piper     The Little Preservation Society That Could Just like a children's story book, Waitara has its own version of The Little Engine That Could - or maybe it's Thomas the Tank Engine? That would make chairman of the Waitara Railway Preservation... more

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