Westport, New Zealand
Westport is a town in the West Coast region of the South Island of New Zealand. It is located on the northern bank and at the mouth of the Buller River, close by the prominent headland of Cape Foulwind. It is connected via State Highway 6 with Greymouth 100 kilometres to the south, and with Nelson in the northeast, via the Buller Gorge.
The town is thought to have been named after Westport, County Mayo in Ireland, although the choice of name was no doubt also guided by the town's location. The population of the Westport urban area was 3,900 in the 2006 Census, an increase of 117 from 2001. Including the surrounding area of Orowaiti, the 2006 population was 4,512. The Buller District Council gives a 2007 population of about 5,000.
There is evidence that Māori settlers lived in the Buller (Kawatiri) area from very early on. Legends actually place the first visit as early as 950 AD via the waka Tahiriangi with its chief Ngahue. The settlers appeared to live mostly coastal lives, though they explored the mountains for pounamu (jade or greenstone), which they then traded with other iwi.
The first white settlers came to Westport in 1861 as gold miners, and the first European vessel known to have entered the river was the sealing schooner Three Brothers in 1884. The 1880s saw many exploratory parties of geologists and surveyors combing the area for the presence of valuable resources and taking the measure of the land. Amongst them were Charles Heaphy, William Fox and Thomas Brunner. While gold brought initial interest to the area, and for example, led to large areas of the coastal areas (covered by sediment from the river) being dredged for the valuable mineral, the area soon became much more famous for coal mining, still a dominant concern in the region today. The first railway of the area in 1864[not in citation given] ran from Westport 18 km to the coal fields, most of them located to the north of the town. The first section of railway from Westport to Fairdown via Sergeants Hill opened on 31 December 1875; this line ultimately reached Seddonville in 1895 and was known as the Seddonville Branch. From this beginning, an isolated network of branch lines was developed and it was not linked to the national network until the completion of the Stillwater - Westport Line through the Buller Gorge in 1942.
The Westport climate is strongly influenced by the high amount of precipitation from the Tasman Sea, with all months except February being rather wet on average. Despite very high annual rainfall, Westport is often prone to drought and conservation measures are sometimes triggered. While colder than the more northern parts of New Zealand, average temperature changes over the year are not extreme.
|Climate data for Westport|
|Average high °C (°F)||20
|Average low °C (°F)||12.4
|Precipitation mm (inches)||189
|Source: NIWA Climate Data|
Economic activity is based around fishing, coal mining and dairy farming. Historically, gold mining was a major industry, and coal mining was much more extensive than today (especially in terms of employment numbers). However, the region still is home to New Zealand's largest opencast mining operation in Stockton. Some native forest logging occurred in the area until cessation around 1999. The Holcim company has a large cement plant in the southwest side of town.
Tourism has some famous destinations in this area, such as the Oparara Basin Arches, and Cape Foulwind with its large fur seal colony. Rafting and Jet Boating in the Buller Gorge are also popular. Many South Island visitors do however pass by this quieter area, opting instead to go to Abel Tasman National Park, to Hanmer Springs or, if they do visit the West Coast, to Greymouth and the Fox- and Franz Josef glaciers further south. Westport is also a base for trips to Karamea, with the only road access to the area running north from near Westport.
The town used to have one cinema / theatre, the St James Theatre, able to seat 424 patrons for film screenings, theatre productions or other activities. After being found structurally unsound, the theatre had to be demolished. A new theatre has since opened. The NBS theatre has two movie theatres, one which seats 55 people and a boutique theatre that seats approximately 20 people. This theatre also has a large facility with seating for approximately 370 people and a stage for performing.
The township also has an excellent links-style 18 hole par 72 golf course (). The course measures around 5600 meters with medium to narrow fairways, small 'target' greens and provides a good challenge to intermediate golfers.It provides a reasonable chance of shooting under 80.
The Solid Energy Centre, a sports complex, was built despite disagreement from some of the town's residents. After a submissions process, the council found that more people agreed with the initiative than did not and partially because of this, the project proceeded. It was opened on 18 April 2009.
Buller High School is a secondary (years 9-15) school with a roll of 345. The school celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1997 but also claims to have been operating for over 100 years, due to its connection to earlier secondary schooling in the district.
All these schools are coeducational. All have a decile rating of 4, except Buller High School, which has a decile of 3.
- West Coast places - Westport Simon Nathan, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 3-Mar-09
- Quickstats about Westport Urban
- Quickstats about Orowaiti
- Westport (from the Buller District Council website)
- History (from the Buller District Council website)
- Welcome to the Buller District (from the 'Buller Community Development Company Ltd' website)
- Westport Harbour (PDF) (from the Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 1868-1961)
- "Climate Data". NIWA. Retrieved 2 November 2007.
- Stockton (Opencast) (from the Solid Energy website)
- West Coast - History (from the Tourism New Zealand website)
- Coaltown Museum (official museum website)
- Theatres (from the Buller District Council website)
- Harbour (from the Buller District Council website)
- New Zealand, NZ, Golf Course Regions
- "Te Kete Ipurangi - Buller High School". Ministry of Education.
- Centennial Committee (1997). 75 years of memories 1922-1997 Westport Technical High School, Westport Technical College, Buller High School.
- "Welcome to Buller High School". Buller High School. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- "Te Kete Ipurangi - Westport North School". Ministry of Education.
- "Te Kete Ipurangi - Westport South School". Ministry of Education.
- Illsley, Amber Jo (1992). Westport North Primary School Jubilee and reunion 1942-1992.
- Jubilee Committee (1991). Westport South School 50th Jubilee 1941-1991.
- "Te Kete Ipurangi - St Canices School, Westport". Ministry of Education.
- "Education Review Report: Saint Canice's School". Education Review Office. December 2007.
- "St Canice's School Westport". New Zealand Tablet. 12 January 1883.
- Westport (official town website, Tourism New Zealand)
- Buller High School website
- Westport North School website