Hawera is the second-largest town in the Taranaki region of New Zealand's North Island, with a population of 11,800.
It is near the coast of the South Taranaki Bight.Hawera is 75 kilometres south of New Plymouth on State Highway 3 and 30 minutes' drive from Mount Taranaki. It is located on State Highway 45, known as Surf Highway 45 for its numerous surf beaches.
State Highway 45 passes through Manaia, Opunake and Oakura en route to New Plymouth. Kaponga is a 20-minute drive to the north-west. The Marton–New Plymouth Line railway passes through Hawera and has served the town since 1 August 1881, though it has been freight-only since the cancellation of the last railcar passenger service between Wellington and New Plymouth on 30 July 1977.
Hawera is Māori for "burnt place", from fighting between two local sub-tribes, which culminated in the setting ablaze of the sleeping whare (house) of the tribe under attack.
The name became apt when the town suffered extensive blazes in 1884, 1888, and 1912.
For this reason a large water tower was built in the centre of town to increase water pressure; and this became one of Taranaki's best-known landmarks (appearing, for example, on the cover of the 1974 telephone directory). After falling into disrepair the tower was closed to the public in 2001, but after an extensive restoration program it opened again in 2004.
Hawera is also home to Tawhiti Museum, well known for its hand-crafted life-sized wax sculptures depicting scenes of local heritage and history, and its scale models of local Maori pa.
The Whareroa dairy factory, 4 km south-southwest of the township, is the largest dairy complex in the world in terms of output.
The complex is owned by Fonterra, having been built by the former Kiwi Co-operative Dairies Limited (whose original plant opened on that site in 1975).
During peak season, the complex employs 1,000 people and processes up to 14 million litres of milk per day. Electricity and heat used at Whareroa is generated by an on-site gas-fired power plant, with excess electricity fed into the national grid.