Stratford, New Zealand

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Whakaahurangi (Māori)
Stratford New Zealand.jpg
Coordinates: 39°20′S 174°17′E / 39.333°S 174.283°E / -39.333; 174.283Coordinates: 39°20′S 174°17′E / 39.333°S 174.283°E / -39.333; 174.283
Country New Zealand
Territorial authorityStratford District
 • MayorNeil Volzke
 • Minor urban area8.54 km2 (3.30 sq mi)
 • District2,163.42 km2 (835.30 sq mi)
310 m (1,020 ft)
 (June 2022)[2]
 • Urban
 • District
 • District density4.7/km2 (12/sq mi)
Area code06

Stratford (Māori: Whakaahurangi) is the only town in Stratford District, and the seat of the Taranaki region, in New Zealand's North Island. It lies beneath the eastern slopes of Mount Taranaki, approximately halfway between New Plymouth and Hāwera, near the geographic centre of the Taranaki Region. The town has a population of 6,130, making it the 62nd largest urban area in New Zealand (using the Statistical Standard for Geographic Areas 2018 (SSGA18)), and the fourth largest in Taranaki (behind New Plymouth, Hāwera and Waitara).

The Stratford District has a population of 10,150, and a land area of 2,163.35 km2 (835.27 sq mi), which is divided between the Manawatū-Whanganui region (including the settlements of Whangamōmona, Marco and Tahora, 31.87% of its land area) and the Taranaki region (68.13% of its land area).

Road and rail[edit]

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

On State Highway 3 New Plymouth is 39 km (24 mi) north, Inglewood 21 km (13 mi) north, Eltham 11 km (6.8 mi) south and Hāwera 30 km (19 mi) south.

On State Highway 43 Taumarunui is 146 km (91 mi) to the east. This road is known as "The Forgotten World Highway", due to the scarcity of settlement along the road in contrast to its earlier history. A sign reads "No Petrol for 150 km (93 mi)".

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


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

The population of the district peaked in 1961 at 11,300, and until the end of the century the town fluctuated between 5229 (2001) and 5664 (1996). The 21st century has seen significant economic growth and some associated population growth in the town.

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [3]

Stratford, comprising the statistical areas of Stratford North, Stratford Central and Stratford South with a combined area of 8.54 km2 (3.30 sq mi),[1] had a population of 5,784 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 315 people (5.8%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 447 people (8.4%) since the 2006 census. There were 2,322 households. There were 2,811 males and 2,979 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.94 males per female, with 1,206 people (20.9%) aged under 15 years, 981 (17.0%) aged 15 to 29, 2,361 (40.8%) aged 30 to 64, and 1,230 (21.3%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 89.1% European/Pākehā, 17.1% Māori, 1.6% Pacific peoples, 3.5% Asian, and 1.1% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The proportion of people born overseas was 10.2%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 48.9% had no religion, 38.6% were Christian, 0.6% were Hindu, 0.1% were Muslim, 0.4% were Buddhist and 2.2% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 387 (8.5%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 1,395 (30.5%) people had no formal qualifications. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 1,980 (43.3%) people were employed full-time, 582 (12.7%) were part-time, and 201 (4.4%) were unemployed.[3]

Individual statistical areas
Name Population Households Median age Median income
Stratford North 1,941 756 41.4 years $27,900[4]
Stratford Central 2,061 873 42 years $26,100[5]
Stratford South 1,782 693 38.2 years $23,600[6]
New Zealand 37.4 years $31,800

History and culture[edit]


The Māori name for Stratford is Whakaahurangi, meaning to look to the sky. The name is taken from a story of the Ngati Ruanui chieftainess/Puhi Ariki named Rua-pū-tahanga who fled her husband Whatihua from Waikato, travelling the track known as Te ara tapu o Ruaputahanga which stretches from Urenui down through Tariki, and ends near Patea. Here she stopped at the side of the Kahouri river near a fresh water spring. It is said she sat distraught and cried into the spring, naming it Te Puna Roimata o Ruaputahanga (The spring of Rua-pū-tahanga's tears), then camped overnight 3 km (1.9 mi) east of the current town. Being a clear night, Rua-pū-tahanga 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 Māori, the track she followed linking the south Taranaki tribes to those in north Taranaki, and further north to Kawhia. Each traveling party would recollect the story of Rua-pū-tahanga sleeping with her face to the sky.[7] The name is fitting, given the exposure of the area to a broad horizon on the face of the mountain's ring plain.

Whakaahurangi Marae, a marae (meeting ground) of the Ngāti Ruanui tribe and its Ahitahi sub-tribe, is located in Stratford. It includes a wharenui (meeting house), known as Te Whetū o Marama.[8][9]


There is no record of Māori 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 Pātea River. The surveying of a new site for a town on the banks of the Pātea River was authorised on 11 June 1877, and the northern half of the town (above the Pātea 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.


Stratford clock tower "glockenspiel"

On 3 December 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 Pātea 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 clock tower plays the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet three times a day. The spoken words are provided via external loudspeakers - there is no carillon (multiple bells) as would be more typical for glockenspiels in towers.

Settlement and growth[edit]

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.

Institutional history[edit]

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. In the same year, Stratford became the third town in New Zealand to have electric street lighting, on the initiative of inventor and entrepreneur Alexander Walker Reid.[10] 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.


There are two secondary schools in Stratford:

  • Stratford High School is a coeducational secondary (years 9-13) school with a roll of 523.[11] The school was founded in 1897[12] and celebrated its centenary in 1997.[13]
  • Taranaki Diocesan School for Girls is a state integrated Anglican girls' secondary (years 9-13) school with a roll of 108.[14] The school was founded in 1914 and moved to its present site in 1917.[15] Most of the students are boarders.[16]

There are three primary schools within Stratford township:

  • Stratford Primary School has a roll of 411.[17] The school was founded in 1882 and celebrated 125 years in 2007.[18]
  • Avon School has a roll of 67.[19]
  • St Joseph's School is a state integrated Catholic school with a roll of 193.[20]

All these primary schools are coeducational and accept students for years 1–8. Rolls are as of November 2022.[21]

Parks and reserves[edit]

Stratford has a number of public parks and reserves, with names reflecting its English and Māori heritage;

Born or lived in Stratford[edit]


  • Mark "Bull" Allen (31 July 1967), All Black, TV host
  • Christine Arthur (26 August 1963), New Zealand field hockey player
  • Arthur Collins (1906–1988), All Black
  • John Graham (1 January 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 (8 January 1936), All Black
  • Lane Penn, representative rugby footballer, coach, All Black selector and NZRU President
  • Mark Robinson (born 17 January 1974), former All Black and current NZ Rugby CEO
  • Ned Shewry (1889–1962), world champion woodchopper
  • Alan Smith (10 December 1942), All Black
  • Jeremiah Trueman (born 19 May 1987), New Zealand national basketball representative

Literature, art and culture[edit]


  • Dr John Daniel Bergin (17 January 1921 – 22 July 1995), Distinguished physician and neurologist, Catholic pro-life apologist
  • Dr Mel Brieseman, missionary to India, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health
  • Dr Graham Gordon (10 December 1927 – 29 February 2004), Surgeon, St John's officer, NZMA Council Chairman (1977–1988) and NZMA President (1990–1991)

Law, government and politics[edit]


  • Alice Copping (14 May 1906 – 21 August 1982), Senior lecturer in nutrition, Queen Elizabeth College, University of London
  • Dr Alan Kirton (1933 - 2001), agricultural scientist
  • Jack Tizard (1919-1979) Professor of Child Development, University of London. CBE



  1. ^ a b "ArcGIS Web Application". Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  2. ^ "Subnational population estimates (RC, SA2), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996-2022 (2022 boundaries)". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 25 October 2022. (regional councils); "Subnational population estimates (TA, SA2), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996-2022 (2022 boundaries)". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 25 October 2022. (territorial authorities); "Subnational population estimates (urban rural), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996-2022 (2022 boundaries)". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 25 October 2022. (urban areas)
  3. ^ a b "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. Stratford North (220100), Stratford Central (220300) and Stratford South (220400).
  4. ^ 2018 Census place summary: Stratford North
  5. ^ 2018 Census place summary: Stratford Central
  6. ^ 2018 Census place summary: Stratford South
  7. ^ Gordon, W.F., Battersby, J.H., Richards, J.B., Kennedy, W.L., and Kelly, C.S.. Carved from the Bush: Stratford 1878-1928. 1928.
  8. ^ "Te Kāhui Māngai directory". Te Puni Kōkiri.
  9. ^ "Māori Maps". Te Potiki National Trust.
  10. ^ Donald, Mary. "Alexander Walker Reid". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  11. ^ Education Counts: Stratford High School
  12. ^ "Home Page". Stratford High School.
  13. ^ "Stratford High School". Education Gazette New Zealand. 76 (4). 10 March 1997.[dead link]
  14. ^ Education Counts: Taranki Diocesan School
  15. ^ "Our Story". Taranaki Diocesan School.
  16. ^ "Boarding at Taranaki Dio". Taranaki Diocesan School.
  17. ^ Education Counts: Stratford Primary School
  18. ^ "Stratford Primary School". Education Gazette New Zealand. 86 (1). 5 February 2007.[dead link]
  19. ^ Education Counts: Avon School
  20. ^ Education Counts: St Joseph's School
  21. ^ "New Zealand Schools Directory". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 12 December 2022.
  22. ^ "Past Winners". New Zealand Book Awards. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  23. ^ Venter, Erika (4 July 2012). "Stratford mum finds voice in Oz". Stratford Press.


  • 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[edit]