Ōpunake is a small town on the southwest coast of Taranaki in New Zealand's North Island. It is located 45 kilometres southwest of New Plymouth. Rahotu is 16 km to the northwest. Manaia is 29 km to the southeast. State Highway 45 passes through the town.[2][3] The town has a population of 1,440 (June 2020).[1]

Coordinates: 39°27′S 173°51′E / 39.450°S 173.850°E / -39.450; 173.850Coordinates: 39°27′S 173°51′E / 39.450°S 173.850°E / -39.450; 173.850
CountryNew Zealand
Territorial authoritySouth Taranaki District
WardTaranaki Coastal
 • Urban
3.77 km2 (1.46 sq mi)
 (June 2020)[1]
 • Urban
 • Urban density380/km2 (990/sq mi)
Bronze statue of Peter Snell
Opunake Hotel
Opunake Beach
Surf Lodge 45
Opunake Mural
Everybody's Theatre, Tasman Street, Opunake

History and cultureEdit

Pre-European historyEdit

In 1833 local chief Wiremu Kīngi Moki Te Matakātea held off a war party from Waikato for several weeks with a single musket, and eventually triumphed. The site of Te Namu Pā is along the coast, just north of the town.[4]

European settlementEdit

The town was first settled by Europeans in the 1860s, when British army soldiers landed at Ōpunake in April 1865 in the Second Taranaki War.[5] By May, soldiers had constructed the Ōpunake Redoubt, where 350 soldiers were stationed.[5] In May 1867, the redoubt was gifted to Wiremu Kīngi Moki Te Matakātea's people, and the area became a location for flax mills, outside European influence.[5] British soldiers re-established a presence at the redoubt in 1875, and the area became a rallying point for soldiers during the invasion of Parihaka.[5] By circa 1887, the redoubt was abandoned.[5] Ōpunake was intended to be a major port but, other than a jetty constructed in 1891, little else was completed.[6]


Ōpunake has two marae. Ōeo Marae and Tipua Horonuku and Tipua Hororangi meeting houses are affiliated with the Ngāruahine hapū of Ngāti Tamaahuroa me Tītahi. Ōrimupiko Marae and Ōhinetuhirau meeting house are a meeting place for the Taranaki hapū of Ngāti Haumia, Ngāti Tamarongo and Ngāti Kahumate.[7][8]

In October 2020, the Government committed $153,419 from the Provincial Growth Fund to seal the driveway of the marae and paint the outside of all buildings, creating 12 jobs.[9]


Ōpunake is home to two pā. Te Namu Pā in the North West along the Otahi Stream and Te Namu road. As well as another pā in the South East which can be found along Park Pl near the Constabulary Cemetery by the lake. The condition of these pā vary, Te Namu Pā is mostly held up, the village and trenches no longer exist. However little remains of the pā in the South East.

History of Te Namu PāEdit

Wiremu Kīngi Moki Te Matakātea led 120 men in a battle at Te Namu Pā against a Waikato contingent numbering approximately 800. The Waikato raid was unsuccessful and eventually retreated; those who were left behind were cremated in front of the pā. Wiremu Kīngi Moki Te Matakātea and his men won the battle partly because of the Geography and because of the singular musket that they had. The only entrance to the pā was accessible by following the Otahi stream around the back of it along a narrow walkway. The pā was attacked 5 times by Waikato forces with no success. Te Namu Pā is also rumoured to be named 'Kaiaia'.[10]

The village that was made at Te Namu Pā in 1833 was destroyed by an landing party from HMS Alligator of 1834.[citation needed] The site is now considered a Urupa (Burial ground).[11]

"Greg O'Brien, poet, painter, editor and journalist, remembers Te Namu's association with Parihaka. He wrote: "my mother recalls an elderly aunt's recollection of the Parihaka siege—her description of a line of women singing, surrounding the settlement as the troops approached.) What escapes us, the land, kumara-pitted, remembers—adze heads recovered from among boulders, the faded shadows that were trenches around Te Namu pa. The site of the first fighting between British infantry—the 50th Regiment, ‘the Dirty Half Hundred’— and Maori.""[11]


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [12]

The Ōpunake urban area, which covers 3.77 km2 (1.46 sq mi),[13] had a usual resident population of 1,401 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 66 people (4.9%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 36 people (2.6%) since the 2006 census. There were 570 households. There were 681 males and 720 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.95 males per female. The median age was 44.2 years (compared with 37.4 years nationally), with 282 people (20.1%) aged under 15 years, 216 (15.4%) aged 15 to 29, 597 (42.6%) aged 30 to 64, and 303 (21.6%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 76.0% European/Pākehā, 37.7% Māori, 2.4% Pacific peoples, 3.4% Asian, and 1.9% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The proportion of people born overseas was 11.6%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 50.1% had no religion, 36.4% were Christian, 0.6% were Hindu, 0.2% were Buddhist and 4.7% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 120 (10.7%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 351 (31.4%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $23,000, compared with $31,800 nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 417 (37.3%) people were employed full-time, 189 (16.9%) were part-time, and 54 (4.8%) were unemployed.[12]


Ōpunake is the centre for the local dairy industry, and is also a popular tourist spot. The beach is composed of volcanic blacksand and there are large rock pools to be found on the north-west end of the beach at low tide.

The Ōpunake and surrounding community has a South Taranaki District Council LibraryPlus, which provides full library and Council related services.

The Ōpunake murals, located on the main road in the town, reflect the town's farming history, Māori culture and modern history.[14]


Opunake High School is a coeducational secondary (years 9-13) school with a roll of 297 students as of March 2021.[15] The school celebrated its 75th jubilee in 2000.[16]

Opunake School, St Joseph's School, and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tamarongo are full primary (years 1-8) schools with rolls of 181, 74 and 11 respectively.[15] St Joseph's is a state integrated Catholic school. Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tamarongo is a Kura Kaupapa Māori school which teaches in the Māori language.

Notable peopleEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Population estimate tables - NZ.Stat". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  2. ^ Peter Dowling (editor) (2004), Reed New Zealand Atlas, Reed Books, map 34, ISBN 0-7900-0952-8CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Roger Smith, GeographX (2005), The Geographic Atlas of New Zealand, Robbie Burton, map 96, ISBN 1-877333-20-4
  4. ^ Tapsell, Paul; Arawa, Te (1 March 2017), "Taonga, marae, whenua - negotiating custodianship", Rethinking settler colonialism, Manchester University Press, doi:10.7765/9781526121547.00014, ISBN 978-1-5261-2154-7, retrieved 15 September 2020
  5. ^ a b c d e Prickett, Nigel (1999). "BRITISH ARMY AND COLONIAL FORTIFICATIONS IN NORTH TARANAKI, 1865-69". Records of the Auckland Institute and Museum. 36: 5–58. ISSN 1174-9202.
  6. ^ "Opunake Travel Guide". Jasons Travel Media.
  7. ^ "Te Kāhui Māngai directory". tkm.govt.nz. Te Puni Kōkiri.
  8. ^ "Māori Maps". maorimaps.com. Te Potiki National Trust.
  9. ^ "Marae Announcements" (Excel). growregions.govt.nz. Provincial Growth Fund. 9 October 2020.
  10. ^ "History and Traditions of the Taranaki Coast. Chapter XIX. The Second Siege of Motu-Tawa at Mokau. Early in 1832".
  11. ^ a b "Opunake Railway Cottage".
  12. ^ a b "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. Ōpunake (220700). 2018 Census place summary: Ōpunake
  13. ^ "ArcGIS Web Application". statsnz.maps.arcgis.com. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  14. ^ Assorted Wall Murals called "Reflections of Opunake" 1900 - 2000 Commissioned by the Egmont Arts Council. Designed and Painted by Mural Artist Dennis Lattimer during April/May 2002. Opunake, Taranaki, North Island, New Zealand. Official website
  15. ^ a b "New Zealand Schools Directory". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  16. ^ "Jubilees & reunions - Opunake High School", Education Gazette New Zealand, 78 (16), 13 September 1999[dead link]

External linksEdit