Tarikaka Settlement - Ngaio

The Tarikaka Settlement in Ngaio, Wellington, is where the humble New Zealand railway house has reached it's zenith, as a desirable and gentrified family home. This has happened here because Ngaio itself has grown up as a city suburb, compared with the rural isolation of other railway towns.

Like all the hills of Wellington, Ngaio (Maori name Tarikaka) was once covered in thick native forests. These were cleared from 1840 onwards, making room for the suburb which pre-dates the railway here. First it was called 'Upper Kaiwarra'  then 'Crofton, then Ngaio. Some buildings remain from this era, but more are from the Ngaio boom of 1928, when an instant railway village was suddenly erected, one of the largest in New Zealand. 

The railway had already been cut through here in 1886, all the way to Johnsonville, enabling commuting to Wellington, and it was also part of the main trunk line, although this was later moved. This little town was made to house railway workers who worked in the yards at Kaiwharawhara and on the lines. 

The streets of Tarikaka, Bombay, Carroll, Ngata, Pomare, Raihania Lane and Khandallah Road are all populated with the ubiquitous railway house, railed here in kitset form from the house factory in Frankton, Hamilton. Though these cottages came with almost identical internal layout and fittings, they were finished with a variety of porches and roof angles. Here in the Tarikaka Settlement, the variety is further enhanced by the range of angles of the sections upon which they were placed, some mercifully flat, others challenging Wellington hillsides. 

The population of Ngaio increased from 905 in 1916 to 2,280 in 1938. By then it was a fully fledged city suburb and the government bought part of a remaining dairy farm to add state houses on what is now Cockayne Road. The suburb was complete by the 1960s, but in the mid 1980s, there would be further change. 

At that stage, the Tarikaka Settlement was still owned by the Railways, and tenanted mainly with Railway employees. The government of the day, beset with free market ideals, first attempted to triple the rent, then tried to sell all the houses to an Auckland-based landlord. The people were dead-set against this, and started a class-action, which eventually won them the right to purchase their houses. Though many have changed hands since, some still are still owned by railway employees. No other railway settlement was successful in avoiding the sell-off and in other places like Moera, thousands of workers lost their homes. 

So the railway houses of Tarikaka Settlement began their renaissance, recognised as providing a desirable style of living, with their good bones, on their respectable sections. In decades gone by, government houses were all painted in a slim range of cheap and sensible pale pastel colours, and the owners of the Ngaio set have mainly respected this tradition, but broadened the range and made use of slightly more sophisticated modern colours. Gardens are tidy, and adorned with the standard mix of native and exotic plants, and the railway runs, conveniently, through the middle of the town.