When heading north from New Plymouth to Hamilton or beyond, the traveler by-passes Waitara. Waitara is a recommended diversion. Waitara is a struggling town that clearly has a both a sense of humour and pride.
In 1867 the settlement was named Raleigh, after Sir Walter Raleigh. It reverted to its former name with the establishment of the borough of Waitara in 1904.
The town was also the site of the outbreak of the Taranaki Wars in 1860 following the attempted purchase of land for English settlers from its Māori owners. Disputes and resentment over land that was subsequently confiscated by the Government continue to this day.
Two large petrochemical plants are now the most important industrial activity in Waitara. The Waitara Valley plant is dedicated to production of methanol from natural gas (about 1500 tonnes per day). The Motunui plant, originally designed to produce synthetic petrol from methanol was modified to produce chemical grade methanol for export.
The depth of Maori history determines a must visit to this ‘please don’t by-pass’ town.