Last Friday (11 December) local MP Jonathan Young clicked the mouse on the Taranaki section of our Places theme to launch it in front of over 120 enthusiastic locals.
Whenever we launch a Places entry we talk up the distinctiveness of the region – in this case it was an easy job. Perhaps you can blame it on the mountain, which shapes the landscape and the culture in unique ways. The new entry includes a lovely series showing how Mt Taranaki has entered into local culture.
Even before we launched the new section, Taranaki had already made its presence felt in Te Ara. A search revealed 231 images of the region already on the site, and uncovered some interesting Taranaki facts. Taranaki was:
- the modern birthplace of non-violent civil disobedience (at Parihaka in 1881)
- the most English part of New Zealand in the 19th century – many of the new arrivals came from Devon and Cornwall (Plymouth is a Devon port)
- the home of early New Zealand surfboards made by Nigel Dwyer of Taranaki Hard Core fame
- New Zealand’s hydro-carbon province
- the birthplace of the petrol-driven milking machine and, 50 years later, the rotary milking platform
- the site of a couple of New Zealand’s classic pets stories. Rastus the cat cruised the highways perched on the handlebars of his owner’s motorbike and wearing his own custom-made goggles and helmet, and red bandanna. Colin’s the cat, who lived at Port Taranaki, was accidentally taken to South Korea on a methanol tanker. After a mid-ocean transfer was rejected as too dangerous, a pet food company paid for her to be flown back to New Zealand.
Historian Ron Lambert, who wrote the Taranaki entry, is a dedicated local and he went above and beyond the call of duty to make the Taranaki story richer. Just one example – we wanted a photograph of the famous youthful soldier on the Inglewood war memorial, which stands in front of the largest rhododendron in the Southern hemisphere, and we wanted the plant to be in flower. So we asked Ron if he knew where we might find such a photograph. An hour later we had one – Ron had driven out to Inglewood, taken the photo, and sent it back by email.
Through Ron’s dedication and the knowledge he gained through his lifelong interest in Taranaki history, we are now able to present many more unique facets of Taranaki. They include:
- the Taranaki gate, which Ron surveyed in 2002
- the ferocious boxthorn hedges
- the gold-striped gecko
- Taranaki ‘wool’, the ‘Jew’s ear’ fungus, which was the region’s greatest export in the 1880s
- Broome and McKendrick’s Swanndri bush shirt
- the weird small-town dramas of novelist and jazz-musician Ronald Hugh Morrieson
- the amazing ‘Beehive house’ constructed of hexagonals by the eccentric E. R. Brewster
- the signs that warn newcomers of the levels of facial eczema.
So next time you plan to head up (or down) to the ‘Naki, take a look at Te Ara first and get some background on the place like nowhere else.