Located on the North Island's west coast, New Plymouth District has a population of almost 70,000 - nearly two thirds of the total population of the Taranaki region. It is situated midway between the major metropolitan centres of Auckland and Wellington.
Driving to New Plymouth from either of these centres is only a four and a half hour drive along scenic highways - or 50 minutes by air.
New Plymouth is surrounded by a spectacularly beautiful environment from its stunning coastline offering some of the best surfing conditions in the country, and a marine park conservation area, to impressive Mount Taranaki and the Egmont National Park which is a mecca for trampers and climbers. The area's climate is ideal for the parks, reserves and gardens which have become a highlight of the district and a drawcard for visitors.
The diverse local economy includes agriculture with a strong dairying emphasis as well as aquaculture, floraculture, horticulture and forestry. Also very important are petrochemicals and energy, heavy engineering, manufacturing, education, leisure and recreation. Tourism has had an increasingly international profile because of the impressive range of natural attractions close by.
The trip to New Plymouth from Christchurch went without incident. Initial concern at not having travelled any distance in the Six soon began to fade as the miles stretched out behind us, and it didn’t take long before we were cruising up the Kaiakoura coast and then On board the Kaitaki – thank goodness for a good crossing! heading inland towards Blenheim. We arrived in Picton at 11.15. The car was very happy cruising along at 60mph, and had plenty in reserve for the hills and when overtaking the odd slower vehicle, so maintaining a good average speed wasn’t a problem at all. It certainly made a change from the last trip up to Wanganui in the 6/90, when it was necessary to keep one eye in the rear-view mirror all the time and try and allow the everyday users space to pass. I was a little annoyed at our placement on the Kaitaki, as the car ended up sitting outside right on the edge of the ship where it would have been very exposed to sea-spray. Fortunately we struck a really good crossing, and there was only a very slight film of saltspay on the car by the time we got into Wellington at 4pm. Our spot on the boat also meant it took about 20 minutes to get off and onto the road again, however we were soon heading up the Kapiti Coast in quite busy traffic, with passing showers rinsing off the car as we went. My original plan was to try and make Wanganui before stopping, however it was starting to get dark and beginning to rain more consistently, so we called it a day at Sanson and settled into a small motel that had Sky TV, as we also wanted to watch the first Crusaders game on the ‘new’ stadium in Christchurch. It was great to see the first try go to Sean Maitland, and to see the Crusaders pull off a victory against the Cheetahs at their first proper home game in 18 months. The next morning I got up and rinsed and dried off the car properly, and we were on our way again at 8.30am. There was a big classic car display in Whanganui that day, and we passed several groups of cars in towns along the way to Wanganui who were obviously heading there. A couple of our Australian rallyists had stayed the night in Wanganui, and called in to the show before coming through to New Plymouth, and said it was a great turnout.
The Trip North By Colin Hey
Day One - Arrival and Registration
After such a long time in the planning stages, the time had finally come for everyone to
arrive in New Plymouth to enjoy a week of activities together using the cars we all enjoy.
It's great how an event like this can bring people together from as far as the lower South
Island, and from across the Tasman.
People actually began arriving for the rally on Saturday 24th March, and our Rally director,
Michael Kruse, decided that it would be good to have a bit of a get-together that night so
that everyone who had arrived in New Plymouth by then could touch base and get
themselves organised for the first official rally day on the Sunday. It just so happened that
Saturday also coincided with Betty Francis' 80th birthday, so it was a great to be able to
celebrate that occasion as well. Consequently, those who arrived early all met at the
Autolodge on the Saturday night for the first unofficial rally get-together. Michael had
arranged all the food, and more importantly, a birthday cake. Apparently, Betty hadn't
suspected a thing, and the celebration was a complete surprise. This was the perfect
scenesetter for the days that were to come.
Because Matthew and I had to begin our trip north on Saturday morning, we missed this
party, but it was great to finally arrive in New Plymouth. It had been about 30 years since I
was last in this area, so it may as well have been all new, as I didn't really recognise any
landmarks from my last visit (apart from Mount Taranaki, of course). After a slight
unintentional detour down town, we soon found our accommodation at the Autolodge. We
settled into our room, and then took a walk down town to get our bearings.
Rally check-in was at 4.00pm at the Plymouth Hotel (just down the road from the
Autolodge), so we made sure we were back in time to get there. By the time we got back
to the Autolodge several others were arriving - Bill Martin from Queensland and Allan
Francis soon appeared, and then Stephen and Janice Belcher pulled in right next door,
followed soon after by Dave and Lynne Keech in their Mini Cooper, so there were plenty
of greetings being exchanged. At the Check-in the welcoming committee consisted of
Michael and Raewyn Kruse taking care of the paperwork, and Dave and Marie Sole and
Bob and Mary Signal were sorting out other details in the background. More and more
rallyists started arriving, and there was plenty of chatter and catching up going on. We
learned that some of the Australians had been caught in the Northland flooding the
previous week, and were still drying out the inside of their rental cars after escaping
through door-deep water. Fortunately they had hired 4WD's for a better view of the
countryside, otherwise they may have still been stuck in Northland somewhere.
At 6pm we went through into the dining room for the welcoming dinner. Michael Kruse
welcomed us all to the event, and Harry Duynhoven, the Mayor of New Plymouth,
welcomed us all to the District and what it had to offer us over the next week. We were
certainly all looking forward to what was to come.
As we headed north between Wanganui and New Plymouth we passed quite a few more cars which were obviously heading there. We even spotted a Leyland Force 7, which is of course an extremely rare car. We arrived in New Plymouth about 11.30am, found our accommodation at the Autolodge without too much difficulty, and got checked in. I spotted Gordon and Beryle Duthie’s 6/110 and Dolphy and Margaret Mathis’ Wolseley Messenger in the car park, and it wasn’t long before Dolphy and Margaret appeared to greet us. The very best thing about these events is catching up with old friends again in person!
Dave & Marie Sole's 6/110
Michael Kruse's Hornet
Gordon Duthie sitting in his 6/110
My new Wolseley 6
On board the Kaitaki
Day 2 - First Rally Day
Kick-off the next morning for the first of our runs was at 8.45am, and we all assembled on
the forecourt of the Plymouth Hotel. This was the first time all of the cars had been
together, and there was certainly a good variety of Wolseleys. The oldest was of course
Dolphy's Messenger, followed by the lovely Series III 18/85 belonging to Gary and
Heather Wall. Michael soon had us all gathered up, and explained the format for the day -
we were to leave in one-minute intervals, and our route instructions were in the very
impressive rally handbook. Easy! I should mention here too how impressive the Rally
Handbook was. All the information and route instructions for the whole week were
included, and each A5 sized copy was finished with a cardboard cover and personalised
for every entrant. Very neat indeed, and a great souvenir to take home.
We were soon on our way, firstly heading up towards Mount Taranaki. Within about 10km
we were on a very narrow and winding road, gradually climbing towards the seaward side
of Mount Taranaki. The road got even narrower, and a few of us had a close encounter
with a large 4WD tractor whose driver seemed to think he had full rights to the road and
all the one-lane bridges! Our first stop was for morning tea at the lovely Pukeiti Park
gardens - a tranquil setting with lots of lawns, native bush and planted gardens. It's a
renowned rhododendron garden, and would look truly magnificent when they were in
bloom. A huge morning tea was there for us, and there was enough time for a quick stroll
around the garden as well. A very nice place!
Back on the road again, we travelled further south, still skirting the western side of the
Mount. The roads soon got wider again, and fantastic views to the coast and to the south
soon opened up. There were a few simple questions to answer along the way, and before
long we were at our next stop, the Possum Factory. Here we were given a talk by Sally
Sands, the owner of the business. We learned all about the skin and fur processing, and of
course the wonderful products they are able to manufacture from the skins and fur from
these pests. The company exports all around the world, and they have a huge range of
products available. Some of us even splashed out and bought a few things, so I'm sure the
visit benefitted both the factory and our group. It was certainly good to see a small
business thriving out of such a pest of an animal.
The next stage of the route took us down to the flat again and into Hawera, where we were
directed past the huge Fonterra plant, through the town, and then just a small hop east to
the Tawhiti Museum. Matthew, Jenny and I actually visited the museum in January when
on the VCC Rally 2012, however Matthew and I were quite happy to return so soon for
another look, as it is such an interesting place and so well set up. We all enjoyed a good
lunch first of all, before moving into the museum itself for a good look around. The owner
of the complex (the museum is housed in an old dairy factory) manufactures life-like
mannequins (all different), and they are displayed in and amongst a huge collection of
historical and collectible artefacts from around the local area. Various areas are set aside
for various 'themes' and there are rooms dedicated to Maori history, the settlement of the
area, agriculture, and local industries. It is very, very well done. A recent attraction added
is the Whalers and Traders museum, a boat ride through a large and dark diorama that
depicts the Maori and Whalers trading and feuding, as went on in the early settlement of
the area. Wheta workshops in Wellington had an input into this, so it is particularly good.
I'm sure everyone was very impressed by this place. They even had a few Wolseley related
items on display, such as a vintage radiator, a stationary engine, electric fence
units, and some small Wolseley instruction leaflets.
We were free to make our own way back to New Plymouth from the museum after we'd
seen enough, and we met again that evening for a great meal at the New Plymouth Club.
This was another good opportunity to catch up with everyone again. The food and
conversation was a perfect way to end a great first day on the Rally.