The iconic Hawera water tower has watched over this South Taranaki town for a century now. Standing at 55 meters high, the tower was saved from demolition after years of neglect in the 80s/90s had made it unsafe. Hawera (or “Te Hawera”) literally means ‘the burnt place’, and originates after an incident between two feuding Maori tribes in the area. One tribe attacked the other during the night and burned their village down- so the area became known as ‘the burnt place’.
With the arrival of European settlers, Te Hawera became shortened to Hawera and the district continued to live up to its name. In 1884 a hotel was razed, in 1888 a large fire destroyed five shops and in 1912 a particularly disastrous fire destroyed a large proportion of the main street. This last event resulted in insurance companies demanding better fire fighting capacity for the town. The decision was duly made to build a water tower.
Construction began in 1912 and was completed in 1914. In 1932 following Hawera’s 50th Jubilee, red neon lights were erected around the top of the tower as a memorial to the pioneers of the district- they remain today. More recently (2002 – 2004) the tower underwent a $1.1 million restoration project to restore the historic landmark.