When John Snell Connett died in 1934, he was considered by the Taranaki Herald's obituary writer as "one of Taranaki's best known public men."

A son of pioneer settlers, Connett was born in 1869 and educated at the Boys' High School. His father, James, owned land in Bell Block and the younger Connett farmed there with such success that he soon became chairman of the Bell Block Co-operative Dairy Company.

Gradually, farming took second place to his burgeoning interest in public affairs. Connett was very active in the community. Most significantly he was a member of the Harbour Board, chairman of the Taranaki County Council, and a director of several prominent Taranaki companies. He was also the president of the Taranaki Agricultural Society during the time they relocated from the racecourse to Waiwhakaiho.

Connett was chairman of the committee that organised Bell Block's marble statue of 'Memory' to commemorate soldiers who died in the World War One. It was officially unveiled by the Governor- General Lord Jellicoe in October 1921.

Connett's profile in the community was such that on the day of his funeral over eighty cars formed the funeral cortege from his home in Powderham Street. A "large motor lorry with special frames" was used to transport all the floral tributes to the grave site at Te Hēnui. A New Plymouth Rotary Club spokesman stated at the time "there was hardly an activity in the province which had not claimed Mr. Connett's interest."

In 1933 New Plymouth's first airport was opened on some of the land Connett farmed. It remained in use until 1966, when, needing a longer runway for heavier aircraft to take off and land, the present airport was opened. Connett's old land was subsequently surveyed in 1967 and became industrial subdivisions.

In the 1980s Connett Road became Connett Road East, and Connett Road West was formed as industry expanded in the area.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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