From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
For other Wellingtons, see Wellington (disambiguation). For the City of Wellington, see Wellington City.
Urban Area Population 370,000
Location 41° 17′ 19″ S, 174° 46′ 37″ E
Extent Central Wellington,
Hutt Valley, Porirua,
Pukerua Bay and
Names Porirua City Council
Upper Hutt City Council
Hutt City Council
Wellington City Council
Name Greater Wellington Regional Council
Population estimate is as at 30 June 2005
Source: Statistics New Zealand

Wellington (Te Whanganui-a-Tara or Poneke) is the capital city of New Zealand, the country's second-largest urban area and the most populous national capital city in Oceania. Wellington stands at the southern tip of the North Island in the geographical centre of the country.

New Zealand's major financial institutions are divided between Wellington and Auckland, and some organisations have headquarters in both cities. It is New Zealand's political centre, housing Parliament and head offices for all government departments and ministries. Wellington is often described as New Zealand's cultural centre, boasting a world class film and theatre industry, Te Papa (the Museum of New Zealand), the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Its compact city centre supports an arts scene, café culture and nightlife much larger than most cities of a similar size.

Wellington was named in honour of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington and victor at the Battle of Waterloo. The Duke's title comes from the town of Wellington in the English county of Somerset.

In the Māori language Wellington goes by two names. Te Whanganui-a-Tara refers to Wellington Harbour and means "the great harbour of Tara". The alternative name Pōneke is often discouraged because of a belief that it is nothing more than a transliteration of the harbour's former nickname in English, Port Nick, short for Port Nicholson.

Like many cities, Wellington's urban area extends well beyond the boundaries of a single local authority. Greater Wellington or the Wellington Region means the entire urban area, plus the rural parts of the cities and the Kapiti Coast, and across the Rimutaka Range to the Wairarapa.



Panorama of Wellington including the cable car.
Panorama of Wellington including the cable car.


The Maori who originally settled the Wellington area knew it as Te Upoko o te Ika a Maui, meaning "the head of Maui's fish". Legend recounts that Kupe discovered and explored the district in about the 10th century.

European settlement began with the arrival of an advance party of the New Zealand Company on the ship Tory, on 20 September 1839, followed by 150 settlers on the ship Aurora on 22 January 1840. Legend states that the settlers constructed their first homes at "Britannia" (now Petone) on the flat area at the mouth of the Hutt River but when this proved too swampy and flood-prone they transplanted the plans without regard for a more hilly terrain — Wellington has some extremely steep streets running straight up the sides of hills.


Wellington viewed from Mount Victoria
Wellington viewed from Mount Victoria

Wellington suffered serious damage in a series of earthquakes in 1848 and from another earthquake in 1855. The 1855 (Wairarapa) earthquake occurred on a fault line to the north or east of Wellington. It ranks as probably the most powerful earthquake in recorded New Zealand history, with an estimated magnitude of at least 8.2 on the Richter scale. It caused vertical movements of 2 to 3 m over a large area, including raising an area of land out of the harbour and turning it into a tidal swamp. Much of this land was subsequently reclaimed and is now part of Wellington's central business district. For this reason the street named Lambton Quay now runs 100 to 200 m distant from the harbour. Plaques set into the footpath along Lambton Quay indicate the location of the shoreline in 1840 and thus indicate the extent of the uplift and of subsequent reclamation.

The area has high seismic activity even by New Zealand standards, with a major fault line running through the centre of the city and several others nearby. Several hundred more minor fault lines have been identified within the urban area. The inhabitants typically notice several earthquakes every year, particularly in the high-rise office buildings in the city. For many years after the 1855 earthquake, the majority of buildings constructed in Wellington were made entirely from wood. The recently restored (1996) Government Buildings, near the Railway Station and Parliament Buildings, comprise the largest wooden office building in the Southern Hemisphere. While masonry and structural steel have subsequently been used in building construction, especially for office buildings, timber framing remains the primary structural component of almost all residential construction. Residents also place their hopes of survival in good building regulations, which gradually became more stringent in the course of the 20th century.

New Zealand's Capital

The Old Government Building on the left and "The Beehive" (parliamentary offices) in the centre
The Old Government Building on the left and "The Beehive" (parliamentary offices) in the centre

In 1865 Wellington became the capital of New Zealand, replacing Auckland where William Hobson had established his capital in 1840. Parliament first sat in Wellington on 7 July 1862, but the city did not become the official capital for some time. In November 1863 Alfred Domett moved a resolution before Parliament (in Auckland) that "it has become necessary that the seat of government... should be transferred to some suitable locality in Cook Strait." Apparently there was concern that the southern regions, where the goldfields were located, would form a separate colony. Commissioners from Australia (chosen for their neutral status) pronounced the opinion that Wellington was suitable because of its harbour and central location. Parliament officially sat in Wellington for the first time on 26 July 1865. The population of Wellington was then 4,900 (reference Phillip Temple: Wellington Yesterday).

Government House, the official residence of the Governor-General, stands next to the Basin Reserve. The official residence formerly occupied the site where the Beehive, the Executive Wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings, is today. It is sometimes humorously referred to as Helengrad.

Location and demographics

Satellite photo of the Wellington region. (1) Wellington (2) Lower Hutt (3) Upper Hutt (4) Porirua
Satellite photo of the Wellington region. (1) Wellington (2) Lower Hutt (3) Upper Hutt (4) Porirua

Wellington stands at the south-western tip of the North Island on Cook Strait, the passage that separates the North and South Islands. On a clear day the snowcapped Kaikoura Ranges are visible across the strait. To the north stretch the golden beaches of the Kapiti Coast. On the east the Rimutaka Range divides Wellington from the broad plains of the Wairarapa, a wine region of worldwide acclaim.

Wellington is the southernmost capital city in the world, with a latitude about 41°S. It is more densely populated than most other settlements in New Zealand, due to the small amount of building space available between the harbour and the surrounding hills. Because of its location in the roaring forties latitudes and its exposure to omnipresent winds coming through Cook Strait, the city is known to kiwis as "Windy Wellington".

More than most cities, life in Wellington is dominated by its central business district. Approximately 62,000 people work in the Wellington CBD, only 4,000 fewer than work in Auckland's CBD, despite that city having three times Wellington's population. Wellington's cultural and nightlife venues concentrate in Courtenay Place and surroundings located in the southern part of the CBD, making the inner city suburb of Te Aro the largest entertainment destination in New Zealand.

Wellington has the highest average income of a main urban area in New Zealand and the highest percentage of people with tertiary qualifications.

Te Papa ("Our Place"), The Museum of New Zealand
Te Papa ("Our Place"), The Museum of New Zealand

Wellington has a reputation for its picturesque natural harbour and green hillsides adorned with tiered suburbs of colonial villas. The city's CBD is sited close to Lambton Harbour, an arm of Wellington Harbour. Wellington Harbour lies along an active geological fault which is clearly evident on its straight western coast. The land to the west of this rises abruptly, meaning that many of Wellington's suburbs sit high above the centre of the city.

To the east of the city is Miramar Peninsula, connected to the rest of the city by a low-lying isthmus at Rongotai, which is the site of Wellington International Airport. The narrow entrance to Wellington is directly to the east of Miramar Peninsula, and contains the dangerous shallows of Barrett Reef, where many ships have been wrecked (most famously the inter-island ferry Wahine in 1968).

On the hill west of the city centre are Victoria University and Wellington Botanic Garden. Both can be reached on a funicular railway (the Wellington Cable Car).

Wellington Harbour has three islands: Matiu/Somes Island, Makaro/Ward Island and Mokopuna. Only Matiu/Somes Island is large enough for settlement. It has been used as a quarantine station for people and animals and as an internment camp during the First and Second World Wars. It is now a conservation island, providing refuge for endangered species, much like Kapiti Island further up the coast. There is limited access to the public during daylight hours by means of a stop-off on the Dominion Post Ferry.

The city has an average annual rainfall of 1270 mm.


18.5 per cent of people in Wellington were under the age of 15 years, compared with 22.7 per cent for all of New Zealand. Around 8.6 per cent of people were aged 65 years and over compared with 12.1 per cent for all of New Zealand.

85.6 per cent of people in Wellington city said they belong to the European ethnic group. Around 4.1% is Maori, and the remaining being Pacific Islander, and Asian.


Panorama of Wellington from Mount Victoria at night.
Panorama of Wellington from Mount Victoria at night.
Daytime panorama from the same location.
Daytime panorama from the same location.


Notable Wellingtonians

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Personal tools