A Taranaki gate
A Taranaki gate NZ Herald

Travel beyond the Taranaki gates

THE wire and batten Taranaki gate, though ingenious and ubiquitous, is not high on the agenda for most visitors to the province. But they will find other Taranaki gates that have more to them than the stuff of which they are made.

The most fortified Taranaki gate is now part of the Whitecliffs Walkway.

Its story goes back to a time, to before the modern coastal road conquered Mt Messenger, when travellers were forced to journey along the coast.

During the land wars of the 1860s, Maori used this route for guerilla raids into Taranaki. So a Colonel with the ironic name of Warre took possession of Pukearuhe "with commendable promptitude" in 1865 and built a redoubt. Wiremu Kingi, the chief who vetoed the land sale in Taranaki that sparked the land wars, said, "The Pakeha has put up his gate at last."

About 120 years later, a gas pipeline was laid up and down these hills and its path, along with the beach, now forms the figure-of-eight Whitecliffs Walkway.

The greatest obstacle has always been at the northern end where, as described by Stephenson Percy Smith, his party had to, "haul ourselves up about twenty feet by rope, and then climb the cliff for about 200 feet."

That's because a tunnel was opened in the early 1870s - it would have been earlier if the two parties digging from each end actually met in the middle the first time - saving modern travellers from the tricky climb.

About an hour down the road, New Plymouth commemorated the "valuable benefactions" of one Charles Score Sanders in 1938 by building the Taranaki gates at Pukekura Park.

Any town would kill for a park like this; big with lakes and bandstands and gardens and fountains and families.

In summer, the valleys of gardens and waterfalls are lit by thousands of coloured lights.

Further south, once the Taranaki gate at the Stratford Speedway is closed, the stockcars don't get out until the race is over. A speedway is an arena and stockcars are its lions.

They attack every corner and the occasional car. That's the reason why I came in the 60s and that's the reason why the crowd is here tonight; nothing better than a bloody good prang.

Stratford stockcar driver and New Zealand's current number three, Chris Flett, reckons a lot of boys spend a lot of money to go fast and other boys, like him, spend less money to slow the fast boys down.

"I like putting in the biggest hits." he says.

Occasionally, a car limps off the track. Otherwise, it's all mud, sparks, high revs and clashing steel as 30 steel-enshrouded missiles scrap each other as they hoon around this dirt loop as fast as they can.

Back on August 8, 1915 at Gallipoli the Wellington Infantry Battalion lost 90 per cent of its men, including its commander, Lieutenant Colonel William Malone. Eight years later, the Wellingtons unveiled the Malone Memorial Gates in Stratford. They are stone and stained and sober.

In Gallipoli's battle of Chunuk Bair, General Johnston sent the Auckland Infantry Battalion to its slaughter. Undaunted, he ordered Malone's men to follow.

According to Corporal Charlie Clark, who was there, Malone told his men, "Stop where you are." Malone turned to Johnston: "These men are under my orders. Not yours. My men are not going to commit suicide."

Acts like this endeared Malone to his men. They called him "Our Colonel". Sergeant Harvey Johns said, "The men respected him. He never denied himself anything, he got into the battle the same as anyone else."

Malone wrote his men were, "Splendid. The world never saw better men or braver, I am sure. I am so proud of them ... I love them."

When Malone heard he had been recommended for a Distinguished Service Order he wrote in his diary, "There must be lots of others who did more. I only did my job."

The gate that stands in his name today testifies that the men who fought under him thought he did a great deal more than that.

CHECKLIST

Whitecliffs Walkway: Allow six hours return. Beach access only safe two hours each side of low tide. See doc.govt.nz.

Pukekura Park: Fernery open all year. The Festival of Lights runs from December 19 to January 30.

Stratford Speedway: Season runs from October to April. See stratford-speedway.co.nz.

Malone Gates: Form the entrance to King Edward Park, on the corner Portia and Fenton Streets.



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