First formed in 1968, Airedale Place runs off Sarten Street in Waitara. It was going to be called Riversdale Drive but in 1974 that name was given to a street in Merrilands, so the cul-de-sac in Waitara was named after a ship wrecked off East Beach over a hundred years before.

The Airedale was an iron steamship built at Stockton-on-Tees in 1857. Weighing 363 tonnes, it was named after an estate in Scotland and chartered by Lord Cardigan for his honeymoon the following year. The ship was sent to New Zealand in 1859 and became part of the interprovincial mail service, conveying passengers, even livestock, as well as postbags, between the North and South Islands. It was used during the Taranaki Wars to transport British troops as well as evacuating women and children from New Plymouth to Nelson in 1860.

At 3.35am on 15 February 1871 the Airedale was sailing from Manukau to Taranaki carrying the latest mail from England when it struck a reef near Taniwha Point, not far from Waitara. It was high tide and the hold quickly filled with water, stranding the ship. An inquiry later blamed natural causes, speculating that Taranaki’s black ironsands may have interfered with the compasses on board, or that the stormy weather produced an electrically charged atmosphere which may have done the same.

The crew were able to rescue all 20 passengers and every bag of mail on board, although the post was badly water-damaged. Regarded as speedy and reliable, the Airedale was a popular ship and locals were shocked by her loss. People crowded onto the beach at Waitara to see the wreck, which was guarded by members of the Armed Constabulary to prevent looting. The crew were able to salvage everything of value, with the furnishings – including crockery and lifeboats – sold at an auction later that month.

What little remains of the wreck of the Airedale can still be seen during particularly low tides, just north of the mouth of the Waitara River, on what is now called Airedale Reef.


This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

Related Information


Image of the Airedale off the coast of New Plymouth (3 August 1860)


Wreck of the SS Airedale at Tuniwha Point (Taranaki Herald 15 February 1871)


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