This West Coast seaport is the chief city of the province of Taranaki and one of New Zealand's first European settlements. New Plymouth lives in the shadow of one dormant volcano and stands on the remains of another. It is a place where you can swim at the beach in the morning and ski on the mountain in the afternoon.
Mount Taranaki, renamed Egmont by Europeans who thought it too confusing to have both a province and a mountain with the same name, forms the centre of the province and dominates the landscape. Maori legend has it that Taranaki once lived with other mountains in the centre of New Zealand's North Island. All hell broke loose when Taranaki fell in love with a pretty young mountain named Pihanga, who also caught the eye of tall, dark and handsome Tongariro. Taranaki lost the battle and the girl. He fled from the other mountains gouging out a massive river behind him. It is said that Taranaki will one day return to claim Pihanga, and it's bad karma to live directly between the two. For the time being, however, the greatest controversy remains which name to use: the original name Taranaki, or the European name Egmont.
Primary industries of the area include dairy farming, energy production and engineering. Secondary industries include breeding artists, bar-keeping and rhododendrons.
Recently, electricity came to New Plymouth, and a Festival of Lights was established at Pukekura Park1 to celebrate. When electric lights were installed at Rugby Park2, night rugby finally became a spectator sport, and search and rescue expeditions for lost players are now a thing of the past.
The most popular local activity is encouraging tourism. The second most popular activity is complaining about ratepayers' money being wasted on encouraging tourism.
The last decade has seen an upsurge of interest and support for the arts, in the form of theatre, music and galleries with the biannual Taranaki Festival of the Arts. The Govett-Brewster Gallery is home to the works of Len Lye (1901 - 1980), a locally-born artist and pioneer of kinetic art. In fact, the local Millennium Project will be a giant realisation of Len Lye's 'Wind Wand'. Picture if you can, a 30 metre high, bendy steel rod with a big red light on the top, swaying back and forth with the breeze.