New Plymouth is the port and main city in the Taranaki region on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. It is named after Plymouth, Devon, England, from where the first English settlers came.
New Plymouth city has a population of 51,000 (urban) and 71,400 (territorial).
New Plymouth won the Best City award from North and South Magazine in 2008, and is the only city of New Zealand to be a finalist in the Whole City awards.
New Plymouth District includes New Plymouth City and several smaller towns. New Plymouth District is the 15th largest district (out of 73) in New Zealand, and has 1.7 percent of New Zealand's population.
The city is a service centre for the region's principal economic activities including intensive pastoral activities (mainly dairy farming) as well as oil, natural gas and petrochemical exploration and production. It is also the region's financial centre as the home of the TSB Bank (formerly the Taranaki Savings Bank), the only non-government New Zealand-owned bank.
Notable features are the botanic gardens (eg Pukekura Park), the 7km coastal walkway alongside the Tasman Sea, the Len Lye-designed 45 metre tall artwork known as the Wind Wand, and views of Mount Taranaki (also known as Mount Egmont).
It is also noted for being a coastal city with a mountain within 30 minutes drive, where residents and visitors to New Plymouth can snowboard, ski, water ski and surf all in the same day.
In 1828 Richard "Dicky" Barrett (1807-47) set up a trading post at Ngamotu after arriving on the trading vessel Adventure. Barrett traded with the local Māori and helped negotiate the purchase of land from them on behalf of the New Zealand Company. Settlers were selected by the Plymouth Company, which was set up to attract emigrants from the West Country of England, and which took over land initially purchased by the New Zealand Company. The first of the town’s settlers arrived on the William Bryan, which anchored off the coast on March 31, 1841. A series of disputes over ownership and settlement of land developed between Māori and settlers soon after and New Plymouth became a fortified garrison town in 1860-1861 as more than 3500 Imperial soldiers, as well as local volunteers and militia, fought Māori in the First Taranaki War.
The Fitzroy Town District was merged with New Plymouth borough in August 1911; Vogeltown, Frankleigh Park and Westown were added a year later, followed by St Aubyn-Moturoa. By 1913 the town had a population of 7538. Seafront land was added in 1931 and 1941; land acquired on Omata Rd was added in 1955 and in 1960 large areas including land to the south of Paritutu, as well as Hurdon, Ferndale and Huatoki were included, as well as land straddling Mangorei Rd between the Henui Stream and Waiwakaiho River.
New Plymouth was declared a city in 1949.
Companies began searching for oil on the New Plymouth coast in 1865 after small deposits of thick oil were found on the shoreline. The first commercial quantities of oil were obtained in January 1866. Exploration continued sporadically and a refinery opened in 1913. Production ceased about 1972. The offshore Maui A well began production of natural gas in the late 1970s, sparking a flourishing energy and petrochemical industry. As Maui A’s resources decline, new sites in Taranaki are being developed in an effort to find more commercial petrochemical reserves.
An 18 km railway link between New Plymouth and Waitara was completed in 1875; this later became the Waitara Branch. The next year, work began on a line south to Stratford, which was reached in 1879, followed by Hawera in 1881. This line, known as the Marton - New Plymouth Line, was completed on 23 March 1885, and when the Wellington - Manawatu Line of the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company was opened on 3 November 1886, a direct railway link was established to Wellington. The New Plymouth Express passenger train began operating on this route in December 1886. In 1926, it was augmented by the Taranaki Flyer for the run between New Plymouth and Wanganui, A direct railway route to Auckland was not established until 1932, when the Stratford - Okahukura Line was completed; the next year, when the line was handed over from the Public Works Department to the New Zealand Railways Department, the New Plymouth Night Express began operating to Auckland. All carriage trains were replaced by RM class Standard and 88 seater railcars by 1956. The Wanganui service ceased in 1959; the Auckland service was truncated to terminate in Taumarunui from 1971; and the Wellington service was cancelled on 30 July 1977. On 11 February 1978, the Taumarunui railcar was replaced by a passenger train, but it was ultimately cancelled on 21 January 1983. Since this date, the only passenger trains to operate to New Plymouth have been infrequent excursions operated by railway preservation societies.
The breakwater at Ngamotu was completed in 1883, providing safe berthage for vessels, and the Moturoa wharf was completed in 1888. Port Taranaki is a critical transport link for the region and the only deep water port on the west coast of New Zealand.
In 1916 the city's electric tramway system began and petrol-powered buses began running four years later. Trams were scrapped in 1953.
The first aircraft landed at the racecourse in 1920 and commercial flights began using the airport at Bell Block in June 1937. During World War II this grass airfield became RNZAF Bell Block; and was replaced in 1966 by the current tarmac airport, 3km NE of the old airport site.
Among the city's major industrial companies was Ivon Watkins-Dow, an agricultural chemicals company founded in 1944 by brothers Ivon, Harry and Dan Watkins and joined as a partner 20 years later by Dow Chemicals of Michigan. The company ran a factory at Paritutu making the herbicide 2,4,5-T. A 2005 study found that people who lived close to the Ivon Watkins-Dow plant between 1962 and 1987 were likely to have dioxin levels on average four times higher than the general public. In some groups the level was as much as seven times as high. A Public Health Medicine senior adviser has claimed that based on international findings, the residents' exposure to dioxin may cause increased rates of disease, in particular cancer. In March 2007 the Ministry of Health announced it would offer a major health support programme to anyone affected. In April 2008 the Ministry clarified that the programme's main feature would be a free annual medical check up for those who had lived, worked or studied close to the factory.
Nearby Pukeiti is the home of one of the country's top rhododendron gardens, run by the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust.
Central School and St Pius X School are coeducational contributing primary (years 1-6) schools with rolls of 212 and 103, respectively. Central School opened in 1884. St Pius X is a state integrated Catholic school. Both schools have a decile rating of 8.
Spotswood College, in the suburb of the same name, is the only co-educational high school in New Plymouth. Founded in 1960, Spotswood is a public school with a current roll of 1020 and a decile rating of 5.