Wellington is the capital city and third most populous urban area of New
Zealand. The urban area is situated on the southwestern tip of the country's
North Island, and lies between Cook Strait and the Rimutaka Range. It is
home to 386,000 residents, with an additional 3,700 residents living in the
surrounding rural areas.
The Wellington urban area is the major population centre of the southern
North Island, and is the seat of the Wellington Region - which in addition
to the urban area covers the Kapiti Coast and Wairarapa. The urban area lies
across four cities. Wellington City, on the peninsula between Cook Strait
and Wellington Harbour, contains the central business district and about
half of Wellington's population. Porirua City on Porirua Harbour to the
north is notable for its large Māori and Pacific Island communities. Lower
Hutt City and Upper Hutt City are suburban areas to the northeast, together
known as the Hutt Valley.
Wellington was named after Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington
and victor of the Battle of Waterloo. The Duke's title comes from the town
of Wellington in the English county of Somerset.
In Māori, Wellington goes by three names. Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara refers to
Wellington Harbour and means "the great harbour of Tara". Pōneke is a
transliteration of Port Nick, short for Port Nicholson (the city's central
marae, the community supporting it and its kapa haka have the pseudo-tribal
name of Ngāti Pōneke). Te Upoko-o-te-Ika-a-Māui, meaning The Head of the
Fish of Māui (often shortened to Te Upoko-o-te-Ika), a traditional name for
the southernmost part of the North Island, derives from the legend of the
fishing up of the island by the demigod Māui.
Wellington also has nicknames including The Harbour Capital, Wellywood and
the Windy City .
Wellington is New Zealand's political centre, housing Parliament and the
head offices of all Government Ministries and Departments, plus the bulk of
the foreign diplomatic missions that are based in New Zealand.
Wellington's compact city centre supports an arts scene, café culture and
nightlife much larger than many cities of a similar size. It is an important
centre of New Zealand's film and theatre industry, and second to Auckland in
terms of numbers of screen industry businesses. Te Papa Tongarewa (the
Museum of New Zealand), the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Royal New
Zealand Ballet, Museum of Wellington City & Sea and the biennial New Zealand
International Arts Festival are all sited there.
Wellington has the 12th best quality of living in the world in 2009, a
ranking holding steady from 2007, according to a 2007 study by consulting
company Mercer. Of cities with English as the primary language, Wellington
ranked fourth in 2007. Of cities in the Asia Pacific region, Wellington
ranked third (2009) behind Auckland and Sydney, Australia. Of New Zealand
cities only Auckland rated higher with a ranking of fourth best in the world
in 2009, rising slightly from fifth in 2006 and 2007. Wellington became much
more affordable, in terms of cost of living relative to cities worldwide,
with its ranking moving from 93rd (more expensive) to 139th (less expensive)
in 2009, probably as a result of currency fluctuations during the global
economic downturn from March 2008 to March 2009. "Foreigners get more bang
for their buck in Wellington, which is among the cheapest cities in the
world to live", according to a 2009 article, which reported that currency
fluctuations make New Zealand cities affordable for multi-national firms to
do business, and elaborated that "New Zealand cities were now more
affordable for expatriates and were competitive places for overseas
companies to develop business links and send employees".
Legend recounts that Kupe discovered and explored the district in about the
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 Aurora on 22 January 1840. The settlers constructed their
first homes at Petone (which they called Britannia for a time) on the flat
area at the mouth of the Hutt River. When that proved swampy and flood-prone
they transplanted the plans, which had been drawn without regard for the
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 and 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 two to three metres 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
metres (325 to 650 ft) from the harbour. Plaques set into the footpath along
Lambton Quay mark the shoreline in 1840 and thus indicate the extent of the
uplift and 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, particularly those in high-rise buildings,
typically notice several earthquakes every year. For many years after the
1855 earthquake, the majority of buildings constructed in Wellington were
made entirely from wood. The 1996-restored Government Buildings, near
Parliament is 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 twentieth century
New Zealand's capital
In 1865, Wellington became the capital of New Zealand, replacing Auckland,
which William Hobson had established as the capital in 1841. Parliament
first sat in Wellington on 7 July 1862, but the city did not become the
official capital for some time. In November 1863 the Premier 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 gold fields 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.
Wellington is the seat of New Zealand's highest court, the Supreme Court of
New Zealand. The historic former High Court building is to be enlarged and
restored for the court's use.
Government House, the official residence of the Governor-General, is in
Newtown, opposite the Basin Reserve.
Wellington is 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 to the south 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 national acclaim.
With a latitude of 41° 17' S, Wellington is the southernmost national
capital city in the world. It is also the most remote capital in the World
(i.e. the furthest from any other capital). 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.
Wellington has very few suitable areas in which to expand and this has
resulted in the development of the surrounding cities in the greater urban
area. 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 (CBD). Approximately 62,000 people work in the 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 a median income well above the average in New Zealand and a
much higher proportion of people with tertiary qualifications than the
Wellington has a reputation for its picturesque natural harbour and green
hillsides adorned with tiered suburbs of colonial villas. The 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.
There is a network of bush walks and reserves maintained by the Wellington
City Council and local volunteers. The Wellington region has 500 square
kilometres (190 sq mi) of regional parks and forests.
In the east is the Miramar Peninsula, connected to the rest of the city by a
low-lying isthmus at Rongotai, the site of Wellington International Airport.
The narrow entrance to Wellington is directly to the east of the Miramar
Peninsula, and contains the dangerous shallows of Barrett Reef, where many
ships have been wrecked (most famously the inter-island ferry Wahine in
On the hill west of the city centre are Victoria University and Wellington
Botanic Garden. Both can be reached by a funicular railway, the Wellington
Wellington Harbour has three islands: Matiu/Somes Island, Makaro/Ward Island
and Mokopuna Island. 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 access during daylight hours by
the Dominion Post Ferry.
The city averages 2025 hours (or about 169 days) of sunshine per year. The
climate is generally moderate all year round, and rarely sees temperatures
rise above 25 °C (77 °F), or fall below 4 °C (39 °F). The hottest recorded
temperature in the city is 31.1 °C (88 °F), while -1.9 °C (28 °F) is the
coldest. The city is notorious however for its southerly blasts in winter,
which may make the temperature feel much colder. The city is generally very
windy all year round with a lot of rainfall. Average annual rainfall is 1249
mm, June and July being the wettest months. Frosts are quite common in the
hill suburbs and the Hutt Valley between May and September. Snow is very
rare, although snow was reported to have fallen on the city on July 17, 1995
Wellington contains a variety of architectural styles dating back from the
past 150 years; from nineteenth century wooden cottages, such as the
Italianate Katherine Mansfield Birthplace in Thorndon, some streamlined Art
Deco structures such as the old Wellington Free Ambulance headquarters, the
City Gallery, and the Former Post and Telegraph Building, as well as the
curves and vibrant colours of post-modern architecture in the CBD.
The oldest building in Wellington is the late Georgian Colonial Cottage in
Mount Cook. The tallest building in the city is the Majestic Centre on
Willis Street at 116 metres high, the second tallest being the structural
expressionist BNZ Tower at 103 metres. Futuna Chapel is located in Karori,
was the first bicultural building in New Zealand, and is thus considered one
of the most significant New Zealand buildings of the twentieth century.
The bucket fountain, Cuba Street
Old Saint Paul's is an example of 19th-century Gothic Revival architecture
adapted to colonial conditions and materials, as is Saint Mary of the Angels
The Museum of Wellington City & Sea building, the Bond Store is in the
Second French Empire style, and the Wellington Harbour Board Wharf Office
Building is in a late English Classical style. There are several restored
theatre buildings, the St. James Theatre, the Opera House and the Embassy
Civic Square is surrounded by the Town Hall and council offices, the Michael
Fowler Centre, the Wellington Central Library,Capital E, Home of the
National Theatre for Children, the City-to-Sea bridge, and the City Gallery.
Wellington also contains many iconic sculptures and structures. Elijah Wood
mentioned that he urinated in the Bucket Fountain in Cuba Street in an
interview with Jay Leno. More recently a number of new kinetic sculptures
were commissioned, such as the Zephyrometer. This giant 26-meter orange
spike built for movement by artist Phil Price has been described as "tall,
soaring and elegantly simple" and which "reflects the swaying of the yacht
masts in the Evans Bay Marina behind it" and "moves like the needle on the
dial of a nautical instrument, measuring the speed of the sea or wind or