Signs of Life | Taranaki January 2012

Jo and I recently spent a week in New Plymouth, her home town. Off the main-trunk highway – you don’t pass through it when traveling one end of the island to the other, and being too distant to take in as a detour – it’s a special trip.

An island unto itself, the city of New Plymouth and the provincial towns of Taranaki are staunchly local, with a uniquely noticeable style of their own, a self-reliant and inventive bunch; visibly displayed at Puke Ariki museum, the Govett Brewster art gallery, local libraries, gardens, by artists (Len Lye, Michael Smither, Fiona Clark), bands (Nocturnal Projections, Sticky Filth) and writers (Elizabeth Smither, John Brodie, Ronald Hugh Morrieson), to mention just a handful of the more well-known.

The Taranaki bight has some of the best surf in the country. Jo’s grandfather, Leo Penwarden, farmed at Omata – in earlier days the farm rolled down the coast to Back Beach – beneath the sentinel Paritutu Rock (Tapuae Marine Reserve) and the offshore Sugar Loaf Islands (Nga Motu Marine Reserve).

Back Beach 1 Pic: inkeatsman

Back Beach 2 Pic: inkeatsman

Back Beach 3 Pic: inkeatsman

Back Beach Pic: inkeatsman

Back Beach Pic: inkeatsman

Back Beach Pic: inkeatsman

Back Beach Pic: inkeatsman

Back Beach Pic: inkeatsman

Back Beach Pic: inkeatsman

The Penwarden family from Cornwall – Thomas, his wife and eight children – arrived in New Plymouth April 15th, 1857, on the CASHMERE,  sailing from Plymouth on December 19th the previous year; after 116 days at sea the family were landed at New Plymouth with 15 fellow immigrants. As pioneer farmers the Penwarden’s were one the many early exporters of butter from Taranaki, the Penwarden butter was branded ‘Sugar Loaf.’

Sugar Loaf Brand Butter Pic: inkeatsman

Paritutu Rock & Sugar Loaf Islands Pic: inkeatsman

Taranaki Producers Freezing Works Coy. Ltd. – Produce Store Pic: inkeatsman

Taranaki Producers Freezing Works Coy. Ltd. – Butter Store Pic: inkeatsman

Former Rahotu Diary Factory, Rahotu Pic: inkeatsman

Former Eaves General Store, Otakeho Pic: inkeatsman

Dairy farmland & Mount Taranaki Pic: inkeatsman

Former Royal Hotel, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Church of St Mary, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

RSA, Hawera Pic: inkeatsman

St Andrew’s Hall, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Opunake Pic: inkeatsman

Opunake Pic: inkeatsman

Opunake Pic: inkeatsman

Ohawe Pic: inkeatsman

Mokau Butchery Pic: inkeatsman

Mokau River Pic: inkeatsman

Shop window, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Shop window, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Powderham Street, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Clock Tower & White Hart Hotel, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Len Lye’s Wind Wand, 45 metres of flexible fibreglass, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Shop window, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Pulekura Park, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Pukekura Park, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Sugar Loaf Islands, coastal walkway, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Shop window, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Pic: inkeatsman

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6 thoughts on “Signs of Life | Taranaki January 2012

  1. great images – evocative! Taranaki is, as you say, out of the way and so many of us haven’t been there – its time to change that I think…

    • Cheers Ngaire… the more I visit the more at home I feel there, what they have done with the coastal walkway is amazing, 11 km along the coast (so far), starting from the city centre. So casual too, near Fitzroy Beach they had couches and easy-chairs out on the dunes!

  2. My Dad was born in Eltham where his father was a small run farmer and stock agent and I’ve always loved the post-punk music that came out of Taranaki. More recently NP’s adoption of Len Lye was a particularly inspired act. These amazing images make me want to head down there and check it all out, like, now!

    • I love the permanent screening of Lye’s films at the Govett Brewster, Mark Thomas after closing Real Groovy in Wellington has moved home (got some great bargains) and opened Vinyl Countdown, I think Ralph Bennett was from Taranaki too, a great identity and really representative of the broad-minded Nakian – able to embracing many influences and be influential. Eltham is fantastic, such a time-warp, and not just the architecture! Unfortunately it bucketed with mountain-rain the day we visited, spoke to some very cool people…and yes there is more than cheese making in Eltham!

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