Story: Taranaki places
Page 8 – Inland Taranaki
Rural settlement 10 km east of Stratford on State Highway 43 (the ‘Forgotten World Highway’). Toko is on the edge of the Taranaki ring plain. The township was the most viable between Stratford and Taumarunui in the early 2000s.
Douglas brick and tile
Douglas was home to a brick and pipeworks, one of the few in Taranaki. It was established by Alf Emeny in 1920 and featured a Hoffman kiln with an impressive 30-metre chimney. The kiln and chimney were demolished for safety reasons in 1985. A smaller kiln, also part of the brickworks, has been preserved as part of the State Highway 43 heritage trail.
Locality 16 km north-east of Stratford on State Highway 43. Along with its store, dairy factory, railway and school, the township had a boarding house which was, for many years, an obligatory overnight stop for stockbuyers or commercial travellers from Stratford.
Locality 30 km north-east of Stratford. Strathmore was named after a Scottish valley, home of one of the area’s first Pākehā settlers.
A side road from Strathmore leads to Mākāhu and then to the farm settlement of Aotuhia. The Matemateaonga walkway to the Whanganui River begins at the Kōhī Saddle near Mākāhu.
Locality 37 km north-east of Stratford. Te Wera was the headquarters for extensive experimental plantings of exotic timber trees by the New Zealand Forest Service in the mid-20th century. The Forest Service base is now a recreational camp and arboretum.
Locality 50 km north-east of Stratford. The road over the Pohokura Saddle crosses the second of four ridges which isolate inland Taranaki. Early in the 20th century it was the site of a major tent-camp ‘township’ for railway construction workers and their families.
Rural settlement 65 km north-east of Stratford on State Highway 43, with a district population of 171. Sections became available at Whangamōmona in 1897–98. A boarding house and a general store were established and a post office and other services followed. The present hotel is a 1911 replacement of the original, which burned down in 1905.
The Whangamōmona County Council was set up in 1908. In 1955 it amalgamated with Stratford County. In the second half of the 20th century all the communities in the valley gradually declined. The school was closed in 1979 and the post office in 1988.
Locals half-jokingly declared Whangamōmona a republic when the local government reforms of 1989 made the town part of Manawatū–Wanganui rather than Taranaki. The biennial republic day draws thousands of visitors from all over the North Island. The hotel is now a popular weekend stopover.
Locality 5 km north of Whangamōmona. Named after a surveyor’s dog which was killed by a boar, in 2009 Marco had the area’s only remaining school. Along the unsealed Marco Road there are remnants of the brick-like mudstone that was used to surface roads before metal from outside the area became available.
Locality 8 km north-east of Whangamōmona. Once a thriving railway settlement, Kōhuratahi now has only its public hall and an isolated roadside war memorial. The monument records that 41 out of 131 local servicemen perished in the First World War, mostly on the Western Front in 1917–18.
Locality 19 km north-east of Whangamōmona on State Highway 43. The highway winds along the Tahora Saddle before descending to Tahora, the last settlement before the Tāngarākau Gorge and the Ōhura valley. A few kilometres past the junction, a new road, completed in 1984, allows travellers to travel back to New Plymouth via Ahitītī. The 85-metre Mount Damper Falls are accessible from this road.
Locality 23 km north-east of Whangamōmona, off State Highway 43. In the early 20th century Tāngarākau was a base for building the railway from Stratford to the main trunk line, including driving six of the 24 tunnels. In 1925 the town had a population of 1,200. It boasted a bakery, several stores, a drapery, hairdresser and tobacconist, fruiterer, library, doctor, boarding house, sports fields, maternity home and school. It had three separate areas, for single men, married couples with children, and married couples without children – the last known to locals as the ‘seedless raisin’ section. In 2008, only two houses remained.
The Tāngarākau River flows through a spectacular gorge from the farmland of the Ōhura valley. About halfway through is the grave of pioneer surveyor Joshua Morgan, who died there in 1893, aged 35 – probably of peritonitis. Several coal mines operated in the gorge in the 1920s and 1930s.