Taranaki is a region in the west of New Zealand's North Island. It is named for the region's main geographical feature, Mount Taranaki.
Taranaki is situated on the west coast of the North Island, surrounding the volcanic peak. The large bays north-west and south-west of Cape Egmont are prosaically named the North Taranaki Bight and the South Taranaki Bight.
Mount Taranaki or Mount Egmont—Te Maunga O Taranaki in Māori—is the dominant feature of the region, being the second-tallest mountain in the North Island. Māori legend says that Taranaki previously lived with the Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu mountains of the central North Island but fled to its current location after a battle with Tongariro.
Taranaki, a near-perfect cone, last erupted in the mid-18th century. The mountain and its immediate surrounds form Egmont National Park.
Although Māori had called the mountain Taranaki for many centuries, Captain James Cook re-named it Egmont after the Earl of Egmont the recently retired First Lord of the Admiralty who had encouraged his expedition. The official name is "Mount Taranaki or Mount Egmont".
The region has an area of 7258 km² and an estimated population of 105,000 (June 2006). Just under half live in the city of New Plymouth. Other centres include Waitara, Inglewood, Stratford, Opunake,Okato, Kaponga, Eltham, Hawera, Patea and Waverley—the southern-most town.
The region has had a strong Māori presence for centuries. The local iwi (tribes) include Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Ruanui, Taranaki, Te Ati Awa, Nga Rauru, Ngāruahinerangi and Ngāti Tama.
The region is exceptionally fertile, thanks to generous rainfall and the rich volcanic soil. Dairy farming predominates, with the milk factory just outside Hawera being the second largest in the Southern Hemisphere. There are also oil and gas deposits in the region, both on- and off-shore. The Maui gas field off the south-west coast has provided most of New Zealand's gas supply as well as, at one time, supporting two methanol plants (one formerly a synthetic-petrol plant called the Gas-To-Gasolene plant) near Waitara. More fuel and fertilizer is produced from a well-complex at Kapuni. However, the Maui field is being depleted sooner than expected, leading to increased efforts to find further reserves.
The way the land mass projects into the Tasman Sea with northerly, westerly and southerly exposures results in many excellent surfing and windsurfing locations, some of them considered world-class.
The Māori language spoken in Taranaki replaces the sound of h (both on its own and in wh) with a break. (The sound used in adjacent Wanganui is similar but not identical.) Thus the famous elder Hina Okeroa was universally known as Ina. The name of the river flowing through New Plymouth, Waiwakaiho, would be written wai whakaiho (meaning "water flowing downward") in Central North Island Māori. It has been suggested that this sound be represented by a question mark, as in "Waiw?akaiho", but that has not caught on.
Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/
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