The Pioneer Village in Stratford is all about keeping Taranaki's heritage alive, but it is also part of Stratford's history and on Monday, Taranaki Anniversary Day, it will celebrate 40 years of progressive development.
The Ngaere Gardens Pioneer Village Society was formed at a public meeting in the Ngaere Hall in February 1973 with the aim of establishing a pioneer village, as previously discussed by the Stratford Antique and Collectors Club. It was renamed the Taranaki Pioneer Village Society in 1976 after the purchase of the present property.
The initial assets were the original house, an Eltham Borough Council grader and, on supports in the carpark, the Tariki railway station. The rail line was laid, but it was 20 years before a train would again pass the station a replica engine from the 1920s, created from a sketch plan and constructed by a local engineer, also a board member.
Pioneer Village spokesperson Deane Kelly says it is a typical example of long-held aims that have been persevered with and finally accomplished "thanks to funding and the voluntary enthusiasm of persons with a particular passion".
"A further example was the intention 'to construct amenities to provide for the tourist market' (as originally minuted in 1981), which finally came to fruition nearly 30 years later with the construction of a café, children's playground and a function centre. To be acknowledged is the support of Taranaki Electricity Trust, TSB Community Trust and Pub Charities for funding this project, the largest undertaken by the society."
The society has a number of projects in mind, but, Deane says, funding is often the prime requirement for capital expenditure.
Work has started on a carpenters' workshop next to the village forge. It is proposed some woodworking machinery be operated by belts from an overhead drive shaft. Another on-site transition is the use of the previous fire station building, now to be utilised for presenting the local engineering history of 'Union Foundries Ltd', established in 1922. This firm once had 55 workers and had a national reputation producing road-making vehicles and bush tramway engines under the Harvos brand.
In addition, Deane says, they are eyeing a bush tramway engine to add to the road roller, grader and tarpot machine at the village.