|Territorial authority||Rangitikei District|
|Named for||Shortened form of Ōtaihape.|
|• MP||Ian McKelvie (New Zealand National Party)|
|• Mayor||Chalky Leary|
|Population (June 2013 estimate)|
Taihape is located near the middle of the North Island in the Rangitikei Borough 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" - 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.
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.
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.
Taihape has a population of about 2,000 people. 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.
The Taihape local government ward is part of the wider Rangitikei District Council, with the current Mayor Chalky Leary and is served by 3 ward councillors, Cr Ed Cherry, Cr Jan Byford, and Mangaweka based Cr Richard Aslett.
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.
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. 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Taihape.|
- "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2013 (provisional)". Statistics New Zealand. 22 October 2013. Retrieved 4 November 2013. Also "Infoshare; Group: Population Estimates - DPE; Table: Estimated Resident Population for Urban Areas, at 30 June (1996+) (Annual-Jun)". Statistics New Zealand. 19 November 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
- "Top 10 NZ roads: Number 2". Fairfax New Zealand. 9 February 2012.
- An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 1966, A. H. McLintock (editor)
- "First Taihape rail stop in over five years". TVNZ. October 2009.