Harbour Street lies in the heart of Tigertown. In the late 19th century, it was also at the centre of another revival of New Plymouth’s unpredictable oil industry.
Under the leadership of New Plymouth lawyer, Oliver Samuel, and an ever changing group of would-be investors, the New Zealand Petroleum Company drilled two wells known as “Samuel 3” and “Samuel 8”, close to the banks of the Hongihongi Stream. A large storage tank now sits on the site of what was, ultimately, a largely unsuccessful venture.
Later, this part of Moturoa, close to the port, would become known to many as Tigertown. Just recently the nickname has come to wider attention thanks to veteran musician Midge Marsden. A track by this name appears on his album, 'Back to the Well', recalling his early days growing up in Moturoa. The fondness he and many others have for the area is beautifully captured in the book Moturoa written by brothers Noel and Don Harris.
Harbour Street is described in the book as a, “quiet sedate-looking cul-de-sac”, where, “the main attraction was the easy access to the Hongihongi Stream”. Catching whitebait for breakfast and setting fire to petroleum scum on the banks of the stream, are just some of the anecdotes retold in the book. The names of families closely linked with street include; Kendall, Wilkins, Caspersen, Hedley and the very well-known Broughton's.
As to the reason for the street name – well, in 1881 the residents of New Plymouth finally witnessed the beginning of construction of the breakwater, and a “harbour” for the coastal town. Harbour Street is a short walk from what is now a much larger port development.
This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.
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