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Minor urban area
File:Taihape Town Hall.JPG
Taihape is located in New Zealand
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Country New Zealand
Region Manawatu-Wanganui
Territorial authority Rangitikei District
early settlement pre-European
Taihape 1894
Named for Shortened form of Ōtaihape.
Electorate Rangitikei
 • MP Ian McKelvie (National)
 • Mayor Andy Watson
Population (June 2015 estimate)[1]
 • Total 1,640
Postcode 4720
Area code(s) 06

Taihape is located near the middle of the North Island in the Rangitikei District of New Zealand. It services a large rural community and lies on State Highway 1, which runs North to South through the centre of the North Island.


Taihape is a rural supply town and was at its peak during the 1960s when it was a railway and transport hub for the surrounding farming community. Much of its economic activity revolved around the railway and rural communities. A major decline occurred in the 1980s due to a restructure and electrification of the railway system and a general downturn in the farming sector. In recent years with the advent of major tourist attractions Taihape is now experiencing an upturn in local commerce. Its location on the North Island Main Trunk Railway and on State Highway 1 has ensured its economic survival. Taihape's main claim to fame is as the "Gumboot Capital of the World", and it attracts large numbers of people to the annual gumboot-throwing contest.


Taihape is near the confluence of the Hautapu and Rangitikei rivers about 500 m (1500 ft) above sea level. It lies in a sheltered valley among the high country of the central North Island, close to the Rangitikei River and the Ruahine Ranges. Despite its transport links. Few towns in New Zealand have a steeper street profile, which provides spectacular views across to the Ruahine Ranges. It is surrounded by fertile high country utilised for sheep and deer farming. Its location close to the mountains, rivers and lakes has made it ideal as a service point for hunting and outdoor tourism. The town is at the southern edge of the volcanic plateau.

Transport routes in and out of Taihape have improved over the years. What were once twisting and treacherous roads through the high country, State Highway 1 is now an easy and fast set of deviations through the hills to Mangaweka in the south and Waiouru to the north. The Taihape Road - once known as "Gentle Annie"[2] - provides an efficient link into Hawke's Bay, ending between Napier and Hastings. Now fully paved, this route is both efficient and time saving when compared with the current main routes.


File:Iconic old house, south of Taihape.JPG The Taihape region was originally inhabited by local Maori tribes who settled the area well before the arrival of Europeans; descendants of these tribes still live in the area. The first record of a European to the region is William Colenso's visit in 1845. In 1884, the surveyor's party for the Main Trunk railway line cut a rough track through the district.

The town was founded in 1894, when European settlers arrived from Canterbury in the South Island. The site of the town was a small natural clearing in dense native bush, which the first settlers set about clearing. Many of the original families have descendants still living in the area. The settlement was first called Hautapu after the local river, then Otaihape ("the place of Tai the Hunchback"), and finally Taihape.[3]

Before the establishment of the railway, the bulk of farming produce (wool) had to be transported east by horse and bullock cart to Napier, from where it was exported. Until the establishment of roads and railways in the early 1900s, Taihape, like other rural towns, remained largely an isolated pioneer settlement. It developed as a key railway and transport town, reaching its peak of population and activity during the heyday of the 1950s and 1960s. The town declined during the downturn of the 1980s and today it is largely a refreshment stop for travellers and a service point for the local farming community.

In 2009 Taihape's primary and secondary schools amalgamated to form Taihape Area School due to the declining numbers of students in both schools.[4]


As of a June 2015 estimate, Taihape is home to 1,640 people.[1] Population peaked at around 3,500 in the late 1960s, but declined in parallel with many other rural towns after that time. The town has two main schools St Joseph's Catholic School established in 1916, and the Taihape Area School.


Taihape is home of the annual Gumboot Day, first celebrated on 9 April 1985. This festival was devised by local business people who decided to capitalise on its rural image.

Entertainer John Clarke used Taihape as a location for his Fred Dagg comedy persona.


Taihape Railway Station was an important railway stop on the North Island Main Trunk line, with a marshalling yard and locomotive depot until the late 1970s.

Taihape Rail Stop and goods shed

There were many railway houses situated along the length of Mataroa Road; now only three remain. At one time Taihape had two lodges of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. One of the lodges was named Kaikoura Lodge No 226 (after the local Kaikoura River) this lodge survived until 2007. The lodge once had its own lodge rooms. The former railways house painted purple located on the highway traveling south into Taihape was once one of the two Buffaloes halls. The lodge in Taihape once boasted a large membership due in part to the numbers of Railways and Post Office staff stationed in the town.

In 1999 Tranz Rail demolished the historic Taihape Railway Station.[5] The Refreshment Rooms still stand on the former station platform, as do the old goods shed and locomotive depot compound at the south end of the rail yard. After a long period of fund-raising by Rotary, a loco turntable was re-purchased and installed in the station yard, so that special trains can run to Taihape and turn around for the return run.

Government and politics

Local politics

As part of the Rangitikei District, the current Mayor of Rangitikei since 2013 is Andy Watson.[6]

Taihape is the main town in the Taihape ward of the Rangitikei District Council, which elects three of the eleven district councillors. The three councillors of the Taihape ward are Richard Aslett, Angus Gordon and Ruth Rainey.[7] The mayor and councillors are all due for re-election in October 2016.[8]

National government

Taihape, like the rest of the Rangitikei District, is located in the general electorate of Rangitīkei and in the Māori electorate of Te Tai Hauāuru.[9] Rangitīkei is a safe National Party seat since the 1938 election with the exception of 1978–1984 when it was held by Bruce Beetham of the Social Credit Party. Since 2011 it is held by Ian McKelvie.[10]

Te Tai Hauāuru is a more unstable seat, having been held by three different parties since 1996, i.e. New Zealand First, the Māori Party and the Labour Party.[11] Since 2014 it is held by Adrian Rurawhe of the Labour Party.[12]

Notable alumni

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2015 (provisional)". Statistics New Zealand. 22 October 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> For urban areas, "Infoshare; Group: Population Estimates - DPE; Table: Estimated Resident Population for Urban Areas, at 30 June (1996+) (Annual-Jun)". Statistics New Zealand. 22 October 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Top 10 NZ roads: Number 2". Fairfax New Zealand. 9 February 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 1966, A. H. McLintock (editor)
  4. Herselman, Germari (16 July 2014). "Merging schools worth it - Taihape". Marlborough Express. Retrieved 18 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "First Taihape rail stop in over five years". TVNZ. October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Wallis, Anna (14 October 2013). "Watson wins Rangitikei chain". Wanganui Chroniclenzherald.co.nz. Retrieved 18 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Councillors". Rangitikei District Council. Retrieved 18 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Local Electoral Act 2001". Parliamentary Counsel Office. Retrieved 18 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Find my Electorate". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 18 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Rangitīkei Electorate Profile". New Zealand Parliament. 30 September 2012. Retrieved 18 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Te Tai Hauāuru Electorate Profile". New Zealand Parliament. 30 September 2012. Retrieved 18 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Rurawhe, Adrian". New Zealand Parliament. 4 December 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>