Corrugated Iron Capital of the World

Napier might be the Art Deco capital, but the tiny town of Tirau, in New Zealand’s North Island, is the self-proclaimed ‘corrugated iron capital of the world’. It’s a big claim for a little town – population 700 – but for this once blink-and-you-might-miss-it town on State Highway One, between Hamilton and Rotorua, it’s reason to stop and take in this quirky country village with great shopping.

I’ve always loved corrugated iron, the relatively inexpensive building material used, and reused, for farm sheds and shanty towns. From shiny, shimmering virgin silver to rust-ridden russet tones, its undulating surface catches light and shadow for dramatic effect.

It’s had a renaissance of sorts recently as a trendy building material, holding up bars, lining restaurants and bathrooms, and as an art surface for painters and photographers.

But in Tirau, it’s been given a new lease of life, sculptured into quirky shop signs, unusual statues and animal-shaped buildings.

It all started in 1998 with a wool shop built from corrugated iron in the shape of a sheep. When the town needed a new building for a visitor information centre, the community decided to build it in the shape of a sheepdog, adjacent to the sheep, and the rest, they say, is history.

Local shopkeepers and business have joined in the fun with cute colourful signs. Even the local church has a corrugated iron Good Sheppard out the front.

Tirau means ‘the place of many cabbage trees’ and the town logo looks gorgeous rendered in corrugated iron.

This has meant plenty of work for local corrugated artist, Stephen Clothier, of Corrugated Creations, which is located just outside Tirau. The ‘mechanic-turned-handyman’ was initially reluctant to take on the sheepdog project, but once finished he was inundated with orders for signs, garden features and letter boxes.

Each artwork is individually designed for the location and handmade, including the frame. 

With galleries, art and craft stores, coffee shops and more, Tirau makes a great place for picking up some unique NZ gifts or souvenirs. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to check them all out, or buy my own corrugated souvenir. But I’ll be sure to stop off next time I’m in New Zealand.

About Briar's Travel Beat

Briar Jensen is a Sydney-based freelance travel writer. In her blog, Briar's Travel Beat, she shares her travel experiences to inform, entertain and inspire.
This entry was posted in New Zealand, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Corrugated Iron Capital of the World

  1. Marian McGuinness says:

    Such an atmospheric post. The quirkiness and friendliness of Tirau shines through. Such an iconic town to visit while in the north island.


  2. did you go there? I can’t decide with your comment re buying a souvnier


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