Eltham is a small inland town in South Taranaki, New Zealand, located 50 kilometres (31 mi) south of the city of New Plymouth and southeast of the volcanic cone of Mount Taranaki/Egmont. Stratford is 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) north, Kaponga 13 km west, and Hawera is 19 km (12 mi) south. State Highway 3 runs through the town.
Eltham is South Taranaki's second largest town. Population was 1980 in the 2006 Census, a decrease of 120 from 2001.
Eltham is known as the cradle of the Taranaki dairy industry (the co-operative system in particular), and for being the one place in New Zealand that manufactured rennet which is important in cheesemaking.
It was also the first place to export butter to England.
Settlement began in Eltham in the 1870s with blocks of densely forested land being taken up mainly to the north of Mountain Road. A profusion of sawmilling companies cleared the district which when grassed was found to be ideal for dairy farming.
In 1884, the year Eltham was declared a town district, settlers, mainly from England, arrived there and the town had a population of 25. Eltham was declared a borough in 1901, and became part of South Taranaki District with the local body amalgamations of 1989.
The town's main industry is cheese production, with much of Mainland Cheese's specialty range such as feta and camembert being produced in the Bridge Street factory.
Other cheese products such as the processed cheese used in many burgers are produced at the company's Collingwood Street site, formerly occupied by the Taranaki Co-operative Dairy Company's milk powder plant, but now extensively remodelled.
Cheese has been used as a central symbol of the town, and to reinforce this view, the town's water supply tank was painted to represent a large block of cheese in 2002.
Eltham's other significant industry is the Riverlands (formerly J. C. Hutton's) freezing works, which has a satellite plant in Bulls, in Manawatu. Both plants can process up to 1250 head of cattle daily.
High Street (which runs through the centre of town - as part of State Highway 3 connecting Stratford, Ngaere, Normanby and Hawera) and Bridge Street (which heads westward towards Kaponga and joins State Highway 45 near Opunake), were the first tar-sealed roads in New Zealand.
Near Eltham, South Taranaki, New Zealand. Eltham is also the gateway to Lake Rotokare, a scenic, natural lake surrounded by native bush (to the east of the town), and to the man-made Lake Rotorangi.