A sizeable region on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, Taranaki has a population of 110,500. Its main city is New Plymouth, named for Plymouth in Devon, England, the embarkation point of New Zealand’s first English settlers. Taranaki itself is named for its major geographical feature, Mount Taranaki. Standing an impressive 2,518 metres, Mount Taranaki is an active but quiescent volcano, experiencing minor eruptions every 90 years on average. The region’s rich volcanic soil combined with generous rainfall renders it exceptionally fertile, and agriculture is Taranaki’s major industry.
The Taranaki region is significant to New Zealand history as the site of major conflict between Maori and Europeans in the second half of the 19th century. Clashes resulted from Maori opposition to land sales, and alarm amongst settlers led to the installation of large numbers of British troops. Eventually war broke out and continued for more than 20 years, and the legacy of the Taranaki Wars has remained with the region into modern times. The small coastal settlement of Parihaka is an iconic and enduring symbol of the wars; in the 1860s Parihaka was the site of a peaceful resistance by Maori to European land confiscations. Land confiscations were later acknowledged to be unjust and unlawful by the New Zealand Government, and the eventual invasion of Parihaka by European militia and volunteers came to be regarded as one of the worst human and civil rights invasions in New Zealand history. Today the settlement is regarded as a spiritually important site and a symbol of nonviolent resistance action and peaceful coexistence between races and cultures.
Taranaki’s dairy industry is the basis of the region’s economy. The massive Whareroa dairy processing factory, at Hawera, is the southern hemisphere’s second largest. The site employs 1000 people and collects and processes up to 14 million litres of milk each day. In 2008, Taranaki had 2,360 people employed in dairy cattle farming, 1,810 in dairy product manufacture, and 2,120 in meat and meat product manufacturing.
A number of notable New Zealanders were born in Taranaki, including present and past All Blacks Beauden Barrett, Grant Fox, Conrad Smith, and Luke McAlister. Actress Melanie Lynskey, who has enjoyed extensive success in Hollywood, was born in New Plymouth. However, she’s not Taranaki’s only connection to Hollywood: due to its resemblance to Mt. Fuji, Mount Taranaki and the Taranaki region provided the backdrop to the 2003 Tom Cruise film The Last Samurai.
Visitors to Taranaki are drawn by its renowned surf, beautiful coastlines, the scenery and challenge of Mount Taranaki, and endless outdoor pursuits and sites of cultural importance. It’s a unique region, deserving of its marketing catchphrase ‘Like no other’.