The small market town of Taihape lies on the southern edge of the Central Volcanic Plateau and promotes itself as the ‘Gumboot Capital of New Zealand’.
It takes a certain degree of boldness and fierce independence of spirit to claim such a title for your town. However, the locals have no doubt about the vital importance of gumboots in the rain swept valleys of the Rangitikei. They compete aggressively in the celebrated annual ‘Gumboot Throwing Contest’ in which participants endeavour to toss a gumboot the greatest distance across a paddock.
Taihape occupies a basin on the banks of the Hautapu River and was first known as Koronokonui, ‘The place of the big bird’, referring to the 5 metre tall giant moa which was the main source of protein for New Zealand’s earliest inhabitants and was hunted to extinction.
Today the citizens take pride in their parks and gardens. The Taihape Domain is a pleasant recreational reserve with a network of bushwalks, and the adjacent Oval has sports grounds, showgrounds and a swimming pool. Keen gardeners who visit Taihape are able to view the four showpiece gardens of Titoki, Rongoiti, Waitoka and Kiri Kiri, which are all within a one hour drive from the town.
The Rangitikei region stretches from Taihape to Bulls and includes many picturesque river valleys. The visitor centre in Hautapu Street has a pamphlet entitled ‘Rangitikei – The Undiscovered Secret’. This shows that within an extra long toss of the old boot from Taihape, there is a wide range of popular adventures including white-water rafting, abseiling, kayaking, horse trekking and bushwalking.
North of Taihape is the Waiouru Military Base, which includes the very polished Army Memorial Museum. The history of the New Zealand Army in times of war and peacekeeping operations is well told with very realistic displays and audio-visuals.
To the south is the tiny settlement of Mangaweka where you will find the Aeroplane Cafè, a venerable old D.C.3 aircraft, which has been converted to an elevated cafè beside the highway.
Taihape’s strong pioneering spirit will ensure that it will long retain its title, as ‘New Zealand’s only Gumboot City’.