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 31 March 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 New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 created the New Plymouth Province, with a Provincial Council given jurisdiction over an area of 400,000ha. Five years later the name of the province changed to Taranaki Province. The province was abolished in 1876.
A Town Board was formed in 1863 and in August 1876 the town was constituted as a borough. Its new status did little to overcome some outside perceptions, however. In 1876 author E. W. Payton wrote that "all the great bustling 'cities' of the colony had a patronising way of trying to snub New Plymouth, referring to it in such derogatory terms as the dullest hole in the colony ... nothing whatever to do there... I find a great liking for this 'slow, old hole' ... it is a quiet, unassuming place and has not done so much to attract immigrants and settlers by exaggerating reports, as some districts have done."
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.
In 1989, as a part of New Zealand-wide reorganisation of local government, New Plymouth City Council was merged with Taranaki District Council (Taranaki County Council and Waitara Borough merged in 1986), Inglewood District Council (Inglewood Borough and County merged in 1986), and Clifton County Council to form New Plymouth District Council.
Every three years the Mayor, 14 councillors and 16 community board members are elected by the New Plymouth District's enrolled voters. The full council, sub-committees and standing committees meet on a six-weekly cycle.
The Policy and Monitoring standing committees have delegated authority from the council to make final decisions on certain matters, and they make recommendations to the council on all others. The four community boards–Clifton, Waitara, Inglewood and Kaitake–as well as the subcommittees and working parties can make recommendations to the standing committees for them to consider.
The third standing committee, the Hearings Commission, is a quasi-judicial body that meets whenever a formal hearing is required–for instance, to hear submissions on a publicly notified resource consent application.
The Chief Executive (currently Mrs Barbara McKerrow) and approximately 460 full-time equivalent staff provide advice and information to the elected members and the public, implement council decisions and manage the district's day-to-day operations.
This includes everything from maintaining more than 280 parks and reserves, waste water management and issuing consents and permits, through to providing libraries and other recreational services and ensuring the district's eateries meet health standards.
New Plymouth District Council's annual operating revenue for 2008/2009 is more than $188 million.
The current Mayor of New Plymouth is Andrew Judd. In May 2016 Judd announced that he will not run for mayor again in the upcoming local government elections.
From west to eastOakura
New Plymouth Airport (IATA: NPL, ICAO: NZNP) serves the city of New Plymouth, and the surrounding region of Taranaki. It is located on the coast, 11 km from the city centre, and 4 km from the outer suburb/satellite town of Bell Block.
It is the 7th busiest airport in New Zealand, with scheduled Air New Zealand services to Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. New Plymouth airport also has daily services with budget airline Jetstar to Auckland with domestic and international links.
Electric power was first provided in January 1906 from the Mangorei power station alongside the Waiwakaiho River near Burgess Park. In the 1960s, the New Plymouth Power Station was initially designed to run on coal but constructed to be fuelled by natural gas or fuel oil. This is a thermal power station with a steam turbine, commenced operation in 1974 with units progressively decommissioned from 2000 with one left operating in 2008.
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 (11 mi) 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 original routing through the centre of the town was replaced in 1907 by an alignment along the foreshore, which remains today. 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. The tramway system was closed in 1954. It was replaced by trolley buses which operated until 1967.
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, 3 km (1.9 mi) 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.
New Plymouth has two fire stations in the city with the central station a block away from the CBD. The station houses four fire appliances, including an aerial appliance, along with three specialist vehicles. New Plymouth Central Fire Station is manned by two crews (8 firefighters) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and responds, not only to the city, but to surrounding areas if needed. New Plymouth West Volunteer Fire Brigade is based west of the city in the suburb of Spotswood. The volunteer station houses a single appliance but is close to Port Taranaki and LPG/Gas tanks. The brigade supporters New Plymouth and surrounding satellite towns.
Police stations are scattered throughout the city with the main base at a modern police station on Powerderham Street. Other suburban stations are located in Fitzroy, Westown and Bell Block.
St John Ambulance supplies all ambulance services to Taranaki with their main station based at Taranaki Base Hospital.
The Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust provides search, rescue and patient transfer missions when required. The AgustaWestland AW109 is based at its hangar at Taranaki Base Hospital.
Port Taranaki is the home port for HMNZS Endeavour but is based at the Devonport Naval Base on Auckland's North Shore.
Local print media include:Taranaki Daily News – established in 1857
South Taranaki Star
Local radio stations:More FM 93.2FM - local breakfast
The Hits 90FM - local breakfast
Access Radio Taranaki 104.4FM - local programming
The Most FM 100.4FM - local programming
Cruize FM 105.2FM - local programming
Hokonui Gold - local breakfast
Newstalk ZB - local Saturday morning sports show and local break outs when required for sport and updates
Other stations run by NZME and Mediaworks are broadcast throughout Taranaki but are networked from either Auckland or Wellington.
Local television stations:7 Taranaki – disbanded in 2007
TVNZ, TV3, Sky Network Television and other Freeview channels broadcast on digital off a transmitter on Mount Taranaki and Windy Point in Spotswood.
New Plymouth District has a reputation as an events centre, with major festivals (the annual TSB Bank Festival of Lights, Taranaki Powerco Garden Spectacular, WOMAD and the biennial Taranaki Arts Festival), sports fixtures (including international rugby, surfing, cricket and tennis matches, and the annual ITU World Cup Triathlon) and concerts (from Sir Elton John, Jack Johnson, REM, John Farnham and Fleetwood Mac).
With its rich volcanic soil, the city is well known for its gardens. Chief among them are the 52 ha Pukekura Park in the centre of the city (named a Garden of National Significance), and Pukeiti, a rhododendron garden of international significance high on the Pouakai Range.
Pukekura Park is also the home of the TSB Bank Festival of Lights, which runs for free every year from mid-December to early February. It has daytime and night time programmes of events for people of all ages, and the festival itself transforms the park into an illuminated wonderland every evening.
Next to the foreshore in the central city is Puke Ariki – the world's first purpose-built, fully integrated museum, library and information centre.
Nearby is the Len Lye Centre a contemporary art museum. It includes the Len Lye Centre, a purpose-built centre next to the gallery that houses the collection of film maker and kinetic artist Len Lye, which opened in 2015, making New Plymouth the world centre for Len Lye. This museum is the first in the world to be completely dedicated to one person.
The Coastal Walkway is a 13 km path that forms an expansive sea-edge promenade stretching almost the entire length of the city, from the Bell Block mouth in the east to Port Taranaki in the west. The pathway includes the iconic Te Rewa Rewa Bridge and is ideal for walking, running, cycling or skating, or simply enjoying the view of the dramatic west coast. It has won numerous awards, including the Cycle Friendly Award in 2008 for the best New Zealand cycle facility.
Centre City Shopping Centre is the only shopping mall in New Plymouth. It contains over 65 shops and services.
New Plymouth won the Top Town award from North and South Magazine in 2008 (judged "the best place in New Zealand to live, love, work and raise a family").
The city also won three awards at the 11th International Awards for Liveable Communities held in Dongguan, China, 6–10 November 2008:Whole City Gold award (population category 20,000 – 75,000)
Criteria award for Community Sustainability
Gold award for community project (natural) – the Coastal Walkway.
New Plymouth has an oceanic climate that could be described as a moist, temperate climate. The average summer afternoon temperature is 21–22 °C (70–72 °F); average summer night-time temperature is 12–13 °C (54–55 °F). The city experiences mild winters, where the average afternoon temperature is 13–14 °C (55–57 °F) and night-time temperature is 5–6 °C (41–43 °F). The average annual rainfall is 1,432 mm (56.4 in). On 15 August 2011 it snowed in New Plymouth, a rare event which has been described as a once in a generation occurrence. Schools were given the day off and workplaces dismissed due to the significance of the event. Kunming, Yunnan, China
Mishima, Shizuoka, Japan
There are three schools within the central city, and suburban schools in Fitzroy, Frankleigh Park, Lynmouth, Mangorei, Marfell, Merrilands, Moturoa, Spotswood, Vogeltown, Welbourn, Westown and Brooklands . The Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki has its main campus in central New Plymouth.
In the inner city, New Plymouth Boys' High School and New Plymouth Girls' High School are single-sex secondary (years 9–13) schools with rolls of 1219 and 1218 respectively. New Plymouth Boys' High School was founded in 1882. The decile ratings of the two schools are 8 and 7, respectively.
Central School is a coeducational contributing primary (years 1–6) schools with a roll of 212 and a decile rating of 8. Central School opened in 1884 and is one of the oldest schools in the region.
In the suburbs are Francis Douglas Memorial College and Sacred Heart Girls' College, state-integrated catholic boys and girls schools (Years 7–13) respectively, while Spotswood College in the western suburbs is the only co-educational secondary school in the city.
The largest primary school in the city is Central school with other primary schools scattered across the city. The only catholic schools in the city are St Josephs Primary, St John Bosco School and St Pius X School.