When surveyor Frederic Carrington chose the site for the town of New Plymouth early in 1841 he took a bit of a gamble. He decided that the lack of a natural harbour was outweighed by other, more significant factors. When the first settlers arrived only months later, not all agreed with his decision. Without somewhere safe for ships to dock, unloading passengers and cargo was a risky exercise.

It took forty years of lobbying, both locally and nationally, before work started to solve the problem. On a fine February day in 1881, the same Frederic Carrington laid the foundation stone for a breakwater at Ngāmotu.  Such was the importance of the day that the Government proclaimed a public holiday for the province.

Thousands of locals flocked to town in the morning for the celebrations, before heading to Moturoa for the official ceremony. There, Carrington was presented with an engraved ceremonial trowel to help lay the first stone. The block of Ōamaru stone was then lifted into place, followed by a hearty round of cheers. The day concluded with fireworks at Poverty Flat – now the site of Central School. The only incident of the day occurred when young Tommy Williams held on to a firework too long, badly injuring his hand and scorching his face.   

Up until the construction of the breakwater, access to this part of town was by way of Portland Road. At some stage after 1881 it was decided to change the name to one that reflected the new port development. So Breakwater Road was born.

Apparently the foundation stone was relocated in 1981 and a time capsule, due to be opened in 100 years, buried beneath it.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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