Stratford, New Zealand

Stratford, New Zealand

Stratford is the only town in the central Taranaki district of Stratford District, New Zealand. It lies beneath the eastern slopes of Mount Taranaki or Mount Egmont, approximately half-way between New Plymouth and Hawera, near the geographic centre of the Taranaki region. The town has a population of 5,337, and the district 8,892. The District has a land area of 2,163.35 km², which is divided between the Manawatu-Wanganui Region (the town of Whangamomona only, 31.87% of its land area) and the Taranaki Region (68.13% of its land area).

Stratford is home to the headquarters of the Taranaki Regional Council.


Road & Rail

Stratford is at the junction of State Highway 3 and State Highway 43.

On State Highway 3 New Plymouth is 39 km north, Inglewood 21 km north, Eltham 11 km south and Hawera 30 km south.

On State Highway 43 Taumarunui is 146 km to the east. This road is known as "The Forgotten World Highway", due the scarcity of settlement along the road in contrast to its earlier history. A sign reads "No Petrol for 140 km".

Stratford railway station is the junction of the Marton-New Plymouth and Stratford - Okahukura lines.

Physical Geography

The Stratford District takes in about one quarter of the Taranaki Region, and includes four major geological features: the Taranaki volcanic cone, its associated ring plain, the Patea River catchment, and the eastern hill country.

Taranaki Volcanic Cone

The south-eastern face of Mount Taranaki is in the Stratford district, the north-westernmost point of the district being the 2518 m high peak. From the peak the boundaries run almost due east and due south.

Pembroke Road winds up the mountain slope from Stratford to a carpark and lookout at "The Plateau", at 1172 m. Manganui skifield is a short hike from the carpark, across the Manganui Gorge.

On the south-eastern face of the mountain, Manaia Road gives access to Dawson Falls and the Konini Lodge, at 890 m altitude. The natural Wilkie's Pools are a short hike above the lodge.

Taranaki Volcanic Ring Plain

The Taranaki volcanic ring plain provides a steady contour with a subtle gradient, upon which Stratford and its environs have been settled. The easy gradient and rich volcanic soils and the high level of rainfall provide high quality pasture and agricultural land. Within this area the ring plain is drained by three river catchments: the Manganui River catchment to the north, the Waingongoro River catchment to the south, and the dominant Patea River catchment.

Patea River

The headwaters of the Patea River are on the eastern face of Mount Taranaki, above Stratford. From there the river flows eastwards, its upper catchment taking in a narrow area of land between the Manganui River catchment to the north and the Waingongoro River catchment to the south.

Stratford is on the banks of the Patea River, at the junction of the Patea River and Paetahi Stream, approximately 15 km east of the headwaters. Due to the narrow width of the catchment, the southern boundary of the town is on the Patea/Waingongoro divide, while 4 km to the north Midhirst is on the Patea/Manganui divide.

Beyond Stratford the catchment widens significantly to include a number of ancient swamps, including Ngaere and Toko, and also the Kahouri and Piakau ring plain streams. The river then takes in the expansive eastern hill country catchments of the Toko, Makuri, Mangaehu, Mangaotuku, Puniwhakau and Makahu Streams, before winding its way southwards through the hills of the South Taranaki district, to its mouth at Patea.

Eastern hill country

Beyond Stratford the district extends approximately 45 km to the east, between the Waitara River to the north and the Matemateaonga Ranges to the south, with the Whanganui River and Heao Stream constituting much of the district's eastern boundary. This area is dominated by steep sandstone, greywacke and mudstone hills and winding valleys. Much of the steep and isolated hill country is in native or exotic forestry. The remainder of the district is in sheep and/or beef pastoral farming.

Much of the eastern hill country falls within the catchment of the Patea River and its tributaries. However, to the north the district takes in Waitara River and its tributaries, including the Makara, Makino, Matau, Mangapapa and Mangaowata catchments. At its northernmost point the district also includes the Mt Damper Stream and its associated swamp and falls, which feed into the Tongaporutu River.

In the east the district takes in the Whangamomona River catchment, and also most of the Tangarakau River catchment, both of which feed into the Whanganui River. This area is separated from the west by the densely forested Whangamomona Saddle, making it an isolated and distinctive part of the district, and the area once had its own county council.

To the south-east the district also takes in the upper reaches of the Waitotara River catchment, within the Matemateaonga Ranges and the Waitotara Conservation Area.

Surrounding Settlements

Stratford is surrounded by a number of small villages and settlements. To the north on State Highway 3 are Midhirst and beyond that Waipuku, and to the south is the locality of Ngaere. Cardiff, Mahoe, Rowan and Pembroke are beneath the mountain to the west, and Wharehuia, Tuna, Te Popo and Kupe are to the north-east.

To the east, along State Highway 43 and the Stratford-Okahukura railway, lie settlements that in their heyday were bustling villages. Toko and the renowned Whangamomona have retained their character as villages, while the settlements of Douglas, Strathmore, Huiakama, Te Wera, Pohokura, Marco, Kohuratahi and Tahora now consist of no more than a few houses. Along roads off State Highway 3 are a number of other settlements, some of which were also once bustling villages. Huiroa, Kiore, Matau and Mt. Damper are to the north and west of the highway, and Huinga, Tututawa, Puniwhakau, Makahu, Aotuhia and Tangarakau are to the south and east.

National Parks

Stratford is the gateway to two National Parks - Egmont National Park to the west, and Whanganui National Park to the east (via Kohi Saddle, Aotuhia).


Stratford is a rural service centre, serving the agricultural economy of its wider hinterland.

After a period of decline, the last five years have seen significant economic growth and associated population growth in both the town and the district. In the 2006 census the total population was 8892, with 5337 in the township and 3555 in the surrounding rural area. This was the first time that the town had recorded population growth since the 1991 census, and the district since 1961.

The population of the district peaked in 1961 at 11,300, and since then the town has fluctuated between 5229 (2001) and 5664 (1996).


The Egmont Ring Plain provides steady contours and fertile volcanic soils which, together with the high level of rainfall, make for some of the best dairy country in New Zealand. The district is predominantly dairying (57,300 dairy cattle), while the rolling to steep eastern hill country supports dry stock farming and forestry (42,000 beef cattle; 281,300 sheep).

The energy and tourism industries are both of growing significance to the Stratford District.

History & Culture


The Maori name for Stratford is Whakaahurangi, meaning face to the sky. The name is taken from a story of a Patea chieftainess named Ruapu-tahanga who, returning from a visit to Kawhia, camped overnight near the location of the current town. Being a clear night, Ruaputahanga lay contemplating the stars when slumber overtook her. Withdrawing in respect, her followers observed that their chieftainess slept “with her face to the sky”. The site continued to be used as a camping place for Maori along what became known as the Whakaahurangi track, linking the south Taranaki tribes to those in north Taranaki, and further north to Kawhia. Each traveling party would recollect the story of Ruapu-tahanga sleeping with her face to the sky. [ Gordon, W.F., Battersby, J.H., Richards, J.B., Kennedy, W.L., and Kelly, C.S.. Carved from the Bush: Stratford 1878-1928. 1928.] The name is fitting, given the exposure of the area to a broad horizon on the face of the mountain’s ring plain.


There is no record of Maori settlement in the vicinity of Stratford. Before British settlement the area was covered in dense forest and swamp. The Vogel schemes of the 1870s provided the necessary impetus to lead to the construction of a railway line south of New Plymouth, and the creation of road access at the same time, to open up access to the rich soils under the mountain.

In 1876, Taranaki Waste Lands Board assistant surveyor Edwin Stanley Brookes, Jnr. cut a meridian line from Waitara to the site of Stratford, and oversaw the subdivision of a block between the Manganui River and the Patea River. The surveying of a new site for a town on the banks of the Patea River was authorised on June 11, 1877, and the northern half of the town (above the Patea River) was laid out by William Skinner in July. More lots were laid out by Peter Cheal in 1879, and in 1880 Skinner was directed to survey the southern half of the town.


On December 3, 1877, the name Stratford-upon-Patea was adopted, on the motion of William Crompton of the Taranaki Waste Lands Board. The supposed similarity of the Patea River to the River Avon in England led to the adoption of this name, and Crompton was known to have a literary turn of mind. There was a trend at the time to name towns after the birthplace of prominent British men. The William Shakespeare 'connection' led to the naming of 67 streets after Shakespearian characters from 27 of his plays. Today New Zealand's only glockenspiel clocktower plays the balcony scene from "Romeo and Juliet" three times a day.

ettlement and Growth

Stratford was formally classified as a town in June 1878, and on 31 August 1878 an auction of 455 sections saw the first sections sold. By 1881 the population was 97, comprising 56 males and 41 females, with 22 houses. By 1891 this had grown to a population of 342 and by 1896 1,256. This growth continued steadily until the mid-late 20th century, and has since fluctuated between 5229 (2001) and 5664 (1996), numbering 5,337 at the last census.

Local Government

tratford District Council

Stratford District Council is one of 74 territorial local authorities in New Zealand. It is one of three territorial authorities in the Taranaki region, alongside New Plymouth District Council and South Taranaki District Council.

The Council is led by Mayor John Edwards and CEO Michael Freeman, and consists of the following members:


The first Stratford Town Board was formed in 1882. The Stratford County Council was formed in 1890, and the Stratford Borough Council was formed on 22 July 1898. The county and borough councils amalgamated on 1 April 1989 to form the Stratford District Council, which was reconstituted on 1 November 1989 as part of the nationwide restructure in local government.

Past Mayors, Chairmen, Clerks and CEOs

tratford Town Clerks

* George Newsham Curtis (1882-1885)
* Charles Stuart Curtis (1885-1890)
* Ebenezer Burgess (1890-1892, 1896-1898)
* William Loftus Tocker (1892-1894)
* J B Patton (1894-1896)

tratford Borough Chairmen

* Harry Norman Liardet (1898-1899, 1902-1903)
* Frederick James Steuart (1900-1901)
* Reginald Brooking Tatton (1901-1902)
* Nathaniel John King (1903-1907)
* Pilcher Frederick Ralfe (1907-1908)
* George A Sangster (1908-1910)
* Jonas Masters (1910-1912)
* William Patrick Kirkwoord (1912-1915)
* Josephiah Wedgwood Boon (1915-1917)
* James Watson McMillan (1917-1929, 1933-1938)
* Percy Thomson (1929-1933, 1938-1947)
* Norman Harold Moss (1947-1957)
* George John Wedgwood Boon (1957-1971)
* Leo George Wellington Carrington (1971-1986)
* Lachlan Grant Bond (1986-1989)

tratford County Chairmen

* George Albert Marchant (1890-1892, 1905-1912)
* William Monkhouse (1892-1896)
* Joseph Mackay (1896-1899, 1900-1905)
* Richard Dingle (1900)
* William Hathaway (1912-1917)
* Edward Walter (1917-1925)
* Thomas Rheese Anderson (1925-1938)
* Joe C Best (1928-1946)
* Bruce Hutchen (1946-1970)
* Len C Harrison (1970-1977)
* HH Paul Cook (1977-1983)
* David Ernest Walter (1983-1989)

tratford District Council Mayors

* David Ernest Walter (1989-1998)
* Brian Robert Jeffares (1998-2007)
* John Edwards (2007-)

tratford Town Clerks

* Thomas Harry Penn (1898-1902)
* Ernest F Hemingway (1902-1911)
* Phillip Skogland (1911-1936)
* Gerald C Grace (1936-1975)
* P A Tourell (1975-1985)
* F W Bullen (1985-1989)

tratford County Clerks

* William George Malone (1891-1900)
* Charles Penn (1900-1931)
* C L J Campbell (1931-1945)
* T A Jones (1945-1968)
* Ken J Little (1968-1975)
* MD Bell (1975-1977)
* Ross D Smith (1977-1989)

tratford District Chief Executives

* Poiha Kemp Broughton (1989-2001)
* Wayne Allan Kimber (2001-2004)
* Michael Roy Freeman (2004-)


The Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki has a campus in Stratford, [cite web|url=|title=Campus Maps|publisher=Western Institute of Technology] established in 1989. [cite web|url=|title=WITT History|publisher=Western Institute of Technology]

There are two secondary schools in Stratford:
*Stratford High School is a coeducational secondary (years 9-15) school with a decile rating of 4 and a roll of 516. [cite web|url=|title=Te Kete Ipurangi - Stratford High School (New Zealand)|Stratford High School|publisher=Ministry of Education] The school was founded in 1897 [cite web|url=|title=Home Page|publisher=Stratford High School] and celebrated its centenary in 1997. [cite journal|title=Stratford High School|url=|journal=Education Gazette New Zealand|volume=76|issue=4|date=10 March 1997]
*St Mary's Diocesan School is a state integrated Anglican girls' secondary (years 9-15) school with a decile rating of 6 and a roll of 159. [cite web|url=|title=Te Kete Ipurangi - St Mary's Diocesan School (New Zealand)|St Mary's Diocesan School|publisher=Ministry of Education] The school was founded in 1914 and moved ot its present site in 1917. [cite web|url=|title=About St.Marys|publisher=St Mary's Diocesan School] Most of the students are boarders. [cite web|url=|title=Welcome to St Mary's Diocesan School|publisher=St Mary's Diocesan School]

There are three primary schools within Stratford township:
*Stratford Primary School has a decile rating of 4 and a roll of 405. [cite web|url=|title=Te Kete Ipurangi - Stratford School|publisher=Ministry of Education] The school was founded in 1882 and celebrated 125 years in 2007. [cite journal|title=Stratford Primary School|url=|journal=Education Gazette New Zealand|volume=86|issue=1|date=5 February 2007]
*Avon School has a decile rating of 1 and a roll of 59. [cite web|url=|title=Te Kete Ipurangi - Avon School|publisher=Ministry of Education]
*St Joseph's School is a state integrated Catholic school with a decile rating of 6 and a roll of 232. [cite web|url=|title=Te Kete Ipurangi - St Joseph's School, Stratford|St Joseph's School|publisher=Ministry of Education]

All these primary schools are coeducational and accept students for years 1-8.

There are seven primary schools in the surrounding district. Recent years has seen the consolidation of a large number of schools into these seven schools:
*Midhirst School
*Ngaere School
*Pembroke School
*Toko School
*Huiakama School
*Marco School
*Makahu School

Parks & Reserves

Stratford has a number of public parks and reserves, with names reflecting its English and Maori heritage;
* King Edward Park
* Victoria Park
* Windsor Park
* Kopuatama Cemetery

Born or lived in Stratford


* Mark "Bull" Allen (July 31, 1967), All Black, TV host
* Christine Arthur (August 26, 1963), New Zealand field hockey player
* Arthur Collins (1906 - 1988), All Black
* John Graham (January 1, 1935), All Black, NZRU president, NZ cricket team manager, Auckland University Chancellor, Auckland Grammar School headmaster, businessman
* Stan Lay (1906-2003) Olympic Javelin thrower (born in New Plymouth)
* Dave Loveridge (born 22 April 1952), former All Black
* John McCullough (January 8, 1936), All Black
* Lane Penn, representative rugby footballer, coach, All Black selector and NZRU President
* Mark Robinson (born 17 January 1974), former All Black
* John Edward (Ned) Shewry (1889 - 1962), world champion woodchopper
* Alan Smith (December 10, 1942), All Black
* Jeremiah Trueman (born 19 May 1987), New Zealand national basketball representative

Literature, Art & Culture

* Sylvia Ashton-Warner (1908-1984), novelist, autobiographer and educational pioneer
* Michael Hight (1961), artist - painter
* Michele Leggott (1956), poet and literary scholar
* Dominic Sheehan, author of "Finding Home", a novel that illustrates growing up in Stratford
* Greg Whyte (1958), Author


* Dr John Daniel Bergin (January 17, 1921), Distinguished physician and neurologist, Catholic pro-life apologist
* Dr Mel Brieseman, missionary to India, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health
* Dr Graham Gordon (December 10, 1927), Surgeon, St John's officer, NZMA Council Chairman (1977–1988) and NZMA President (1990–1991)

Law, Government and Politics

* David Spence Thomson (November 14, 1915-), Minister of Defence and Minister of Justice in the Third National Government of New Zealand
* Venn Young (1929 - 1993), Cabinet minister in the Muldoon National Government and homosexual rights activist


* Alice Copping (May 14, 1906), Senior lecturer in nutrition, Queen Elizabeth College, University of London
* Dr Alan Kirton (1933), agricultural scientist


* Brian Davis, (1934 - 1998), Archbishop of New Zealand
* Emily Stevens (September 3, 1900), wholesale florist, nurserywoman, iris hybridiser

ister city

* Stratford, Connecticut, United States
* Stratford upon Avon, England



* "The Stratford Inheritance" by Ian Church, 1990, Heritage Press Ltd, Waikanae, New Zealand: ISBN 0-908708-17-3
* "Stratford: Shakespearean Town Under the Mountain" by David Walter, 2005, Dunmore Publishing, Wellington, New Zealand: ISBN 1-877399-05-1

External links

* [ Tourism Taranaki]
* [ Stratford District Council]
* [ Stratord Information Centre]
* [ Stratford High School]
* [ St Mary's Diocesan School]
* [ "Stratford" in the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand]
* [ The Stratfordian]
* [ Stratford School website]

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