In the early part of the twentieth century, the predominant mode of transport from New Plymouth to other centres in New Zealand was coastal shipping. The pride of the run from New Plymouth to Auckland was the Northern Steamship Companies' vessel "Rarawa".
Rarawa was a schooner-rigged, twin-screw steamer built by Gourlay Bros of Dundee, Scotland in 1903. It was a familiar sight at Port Taranaki from 1903 until 1929, by which time rail had largely supplanted shipping as passenger transport to and from the city.
The service was advertised across New Zealand in daily newspapers. In 1919 the insert read:
"S. S. RARAWA, Leaves New Plymouth Breakwater on TUESDAY, THURSDAY AND SATURDAY, at 7 o'clock. (Weather, etc., permitting). FROM ONEHUNGA (AUCKLAND), TO NEW PLYMOUTH: S.S. RARAWA Leaves at 3 p.m. on MONDAY, WEDNESDAY AND FRIDAY. (Weather, etc., permitting).
Fares - Saloon, 31s [shillings]; Return 52s. Steerage, 23s 6d ; Return 37s.
The Nattrass and Harris Motor Company advertised a "thrice weekly" connection service from the Criterion Garage Company in Liardet Street to the TSS Rarawa at the breakwater.
At the end of her service in 1929, she was laid up in Auckland and eventually purchased by the government, in 1940, and used by the navy for parts. The hull was run aground on Rangitoto Island where sections of the stern and bow are still visible near Boulder Bay.
Puke Ariki's Social History collection has the ship's bell from Rarawa and an amazing scale model, which was on display at the Northern Steamship Company before it was donated to the Taranaki Museum in 1960.
The Vogeltown street was named Rarawa Place in 1958, recognising the importance of transport infrastructure from the earliest time of settlement in New Plymouth.
This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.