Palmerston North

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Palmerston North
Te Papaioea (Māori)
Metropolitan Area
Clockwise from top: The Square, Central Business District, All Saints Church, City Library, The Square Clock Tower
Flag of Palmerston North
Nickname(s): Palmy, Student City, Knowledge City, Rose City, Palmy North
Motto: Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat Let him who has earned it, bear the reward[1][2]
Palmerston North is located in New Zealand
Palmerston North
Palmerston North
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Country  New Zealand
Island North Island
Region Manawatu-Wanganui
Territorial authority Palmerston North City Council
Borough proclaimed 1877
City proclaimed 1930
Electorates Palmerston North; (Māori): Te Tai Hauāuru
 • Mayor Grant Smith
 • Deputy Mayor Duncan McCann
 • Territorial 326 km2 (126 sq mi)
Highest elevation 760 m (2,490 ft)
Lowest elevation 10 m (30 ft)
Population (June 2015 estimate)[3]
 • Territorial 85,500
 • Density 260/km2 (680/sq mi)
 • Urban 83,500
 • Demonym Palmerstonian
Time zone NZST (UTC+12)
 • Summer (DST) NZDT (UTC+13)
Post codes 4410, 4412, 4414, 4471, 4472, 4475, 4810, 4820
Area code(s) 06
Local iwi Ngāti Rangitāne

Palmerston North (/ˌpɑːmərstənˈnɔːrθ/ PAH-mər-stən-NORTH) (Māori: Te Papaioea or transliterated Māori: Pamutana), commonly referred to by locals as Palmerston, or colloquially Palmy, is the main city of the Manawatu-Wanganui region of the North Island of New Zealand.

The city is inland, located in the eastern Manawatu Plains, near the north bank of the Manawatu River. The city is 35 km (22 mi) from the river's mouth and 12 km (7 mi) from the end of the Manawatu Gorge. It is about 140 km (87 mi) north of the capital, Wellington.

The city covers an area of 325.94 square kilometres (126 sq mi). The official limits of the city take in rural areas to the south, north-east, north-west and west of the main urban area, extending to the Tararua Ranges; including the town of Ashhurst at the mouth of the Manawatu Gorge, the villages of Bunnythorpe and Longburn in the north and west respectively. Included in the city limits are fertile agricultural areas.

Palmerston North is the country's seventh largest city and eighth largest urban area, with an urban population of 83,500 (June 2015 estimate).[3]

The city's location was once little more than a clearing in a forest and occupied by small communities of indigenous Māori, who called it Papaioea, believed to mean "How beautiful it is".[4] In the mid 19th century, it was discovered and settled by Europeans (mostly of British and Scandinavian origin). On foundation, the settlement was bestowed the name Palmerston, in honour of Viscount Palmerston, a former Prime Minister of Great Britain. The suffix "North" was added in 1871 by the Post Office to distinguish the settlement from Palmerston in the South Island. The Māori transliteration of Palmerston North, is Pamutana (Nota). However, Te Papaioea is the preferred Māori name.[5]

Physical environment

Looking SE towards Palmerston North city centre from Palmerston North Hospital. In the distance is Tararua Range.

Palmerston North has a land area of 325.94 square kilometres (80,540 acres).[6] Of this, the area in public reserves is 5.54 square kilometres (1,369 acres).

Although surrounded by the Ruahine and Tararua range in the east and south respectively, the city is predominantly flat. The occasional rise in elevation occurs in the northeast and on the south side of the river. The typical urban area elevation ranges between 20–40 metres (65–130 ft). The highest point is 760 metres (2,493 ft) above sea level. This is in the Tararua ranges, south-east of Scotts Road.[7]The lowest Point is 10 metres (33 ft) above sea level. This is at the river bank near Te Puna Road. Incidentally, both these locations are in the south-west of the city, by Linton.

The length of the Manawatu river within the city boundary is 29.9 kilometres (18.6 mi) and its tributary at Ashhurst, the Pohangina, is 2.6 kilometres (1.6 mi).


Palmerston North's climate is temperate with maximum daytime temperatures averaging 22 °C (72 °F) in summer and 12 °C (54 °F) in winter. On average temperatures rise above 25 °C (77 °F) on 20 days of the year. Annual rainfall is approximately 960 mm (37.8 in) with rain occurring approximately 5% of the time. There are on average 200 rain-free days each year.[citation needed]

In the ranges that flank the city there is often sustained wind, especially in spring. Much of this land is within the city boundaries and these ranges have the reputation of providing the most consistent wind in the country.[citation needed]

Close to the city is the largest electricity-generating wind farm in the southern hemisphere, with 158 turbines in the Tararua and Ruahine Ranges providing power for approximately 30,000 homes.

Climate data for Palmerston North (1981−2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 23.0
Daily mean °C (°F) 17.8
Average low °C (°F) 12.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 55.0
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 7.1 6.9 7.7 8.2 9.9 12.2 11.6 13.0 11.9 11.8 10.3 11.1 121.7
Average relative humidity (%) 75.3 77.7 79.4 81.2 85.8 86.8 86.8 84.6 79.7 80.5 76.7 76.0 80.9
Mean monthly sunshine hours 212.4 191.0 173.5 145.6 109.3 79.1 103.8 119.9 124.2 142.6 165.3 176.7 1,743.5
Source: NIWA Climate Data[8]


Historical population
Year Pop. ±% p.a.
1996 76,000 —    
2001 75,900 −0.03%
2006 79,100 +0.83%
2013 81,500 +0.43%
Source: [9]

At the 2006 census, Palmerston North had a population of 75,543, an increase of 3507 people (4.9%) since the 2001 census. There were 27,849 occupied dwellings, 1,662 unoccupied dwellings, and 189 dwellings under construction.[10] In the last census in 2013 the population had risen to 80,079.[11]

Palmerston North's ethnicity was made up of (national figure in brackets): 71.4% European (67.6%), 15.4% Māori (14.7%), 7.4% Asian (9.2%), 3.7% Pacific Islanders (6.9%), 1.1% Middle Eastern/Latin American/African (0.9%), 12.5% 'New Zealanders' (11.1%), and 0.05% Other (0.04%).[10]

Of the population, 36,345 (48.1%) were male and 39,192 (51.9%) female.[10]

The city had a median age of 32.4 years, 2.5 years below the national median age of 35.9 years. People aged 65 years and over made up 11.6% of the population, compared to 12.3% nationally, and people under 15 years made up 20.3% of the population, compared to 21.5% nationally. Due to Palmerston North being a university city, approximately 36% of the population is aged between 15.0 and 24.9 years.[10]

The average annual income of all people 15 years and over was $23,100, compared with $24,400 nationally. Of those, 44.9% earned under $20,000, compared with 43.2% nationally, while 15.4% earned over $50,000, compared to 18.0% nationally.[10]

Palmerston North City had an unemployment rate of 5.3% of people 15 years and over, compared to 5.1% nationally.[10]


Although Palmerston North has 1.9% of the population of New Zealand, 2.5% of the nation's employees work in the city. The important sectors are tertiary education, research and central government (Defence force).[12]

The largest industry in terms of employees is the health and community services industry, which employs 14.9% of employees in the city.

The retail trade industry employs 13.3% of employees in the city.[13] This reflects the city's role as an important retail service centre in the Lower North Island.

The tertiary education sector provides NZ$500 million a year to the local economy [12] and the education sector accounted for 11.3%[13] of the Palmerston North workforce in February 2006.

Palmerston North has economic strengths in research, especially in the bio-industry, defence, distribution and smart business sectors. The city is home to more than 70 major educational and research institutions, including New Zealand's fastest expanding university, Massey University; the Massey University Sport and Recreation Institute at the Massey University campus, Turitea; Universal College of Learning (UCOL) and Linton Army Camp.

Business innovation

Palmerston North has a long history of innovation in the business sector. A number of firms founded in or near the city have become nationally or internationally renowned, one of the largest and well known, GSK (GlaxoSmithKline).[14] Glaxo had its beginnings in Bunnythorpe, now a part of Palmerston North.

Companies with National Head Offices based in Palmerston North:

  • Toyota New Zealand
  • Higgins Group
  • FMG Insurance
  • New Zealand Pharmaceuticals Limited
  • Steelfort Engineering Limited
  • Hino Distributors (NZ) Ltd
  • Hunting and Fishing New Zealand
  • CB Norwood Distributors Ltd
  • Sime Darby Commercial (NZ) Ltd
  • Motor Truck Distributors (NZ) Ltd (National distributors of Mack, Renault and Volvo Trucks & Buses)
  • Truck Stops (NZ) Ltd
  • OBO


Palmerston North is an important base for tertiary institutions, the home campuses of Massey University, Universal College of Learning (UCOL) and Institute of the Pacific United (IPU)[15] are here. A large proportion of Palmerston North's population consists of students attending these institutions or the various Papaioea Campuses of Te Wananga o Aotearoa during the student year.

Tertiary Education Institutions
School Name Location
Massey University Turitea
Universal College of Learning Palmerston North Central
Institute of the Pacific United Aokautere
Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Various locations around Palmerston North
Primary and Secondary Schools


The main hospital in Palmerston North is Palmerston North Hospital. It is the seat of the MidCentral District Health Board. There were two private hospitals, Aorangi and Southern Cross. In 2012 these two private surgical hospitals merged and are now known as Crest Hospital.


New Zealand Police Central District is shown in orange.

Palmerston North

The Palmerston North Police are responsible for law enforcement in the city area. The main Police Station is in the central business district, a short distance down the road from The Plaza. Community Police centres exist in Ashhurst, Highbury, Linton, Massey University and Rossmont (Roslyn).

In the years between 2006 and 2010 the crime rate in Palmerston North was similar to that of New Zealand as a whole. Overall, the number of offences, as recorded by the Palmerston North Police stations has declined (2012).[16] Violent crime has increased by 5% in the past year but this is compared with an 11% rise nationally. Satisfaction with safety in public places at night has remained at its 2007 level.[17]

Central District

The Central District covers the Ruapehu District in the north, to Otaki in the south and includes Taranaki, Wanganui, Manawatu, Horowhenua and Tararua. The Central District's Headquarters are in Palmerston North.[18]


Palmerston North Courthouse seats a High/District Court and is located at Main Street (east).[19]

Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Palmerston North


Arms of the Anglican Diocese of Wellington

Palmerston North has a number of religious institutions and a high percentage of worship against the national average[citation needed]. The high number of Christian fellowship in Palmerston North has been reflected in the adornment of the Christian cross on the city's clock tower.[citation needed]

The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Palmerston North is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Palmerston North whose Bishop is Charles Drennan.

Palmerston North is in the jurisdiction of the Anglican Diocese of Wellington.

There are also many other churches with denominations such as Adventist (Mosaic Community Church and Palmerston North Seventh Day Adventist Church), Apostolic, Assembly of God (AOG), Baptist, Brethren, Christian Scientist, Church of Christ, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian and Religious Society of Friends.

There is a Sikh temple in Awapuni.

There is an Islamic centre in West End and an Islamic prayer centre at Massey University.

City facilities and attractions

Palmerston North has a number of facilities and attractions. It is also the gateway to attractions in other parts of the region, such as Tongariro National Park, Ruahine and Tararua Ranges. When Palmerston North International Airport serviced international flights, the city was also an international gateway to Hawke's Bay, Wanganui and Taranaki.

The Plaza

The Plaza is the largest shopping centre in the Manawatu-Wanganui region and a key shopping centre in the lower North Island, boasting over 100 stores. It was built in about the 1980s and then upgraded again in around the late 2000s to what it is now.[citation needed]


Downtown on Broadway combines retail and boutique shopping and Downtown Cinemas.

The Square

Palmerston North, Square Edge

Originally part of the Papaioea clearing, The Square is a seven-hectare park of lawn, trees, lakes, fountains, and gardens in the centre of the city. It is the city's original park and also the centrepoint from whence the city's main streets are arranged.

The Square contains the city's war memorial and a memorial dedicated to Te Peeti Te Awe Awe, the Rangitāne chief instrumental in the sale of Palmerston North district to the government in 1865.[20] Near the centre of the park is the Clock Tower with its illuminated cross and coloured lights. Also here is the city's iSite, the Civic Building (seat of the City Council), the City Library, Square Edge and the commercial heart of Palmerston North's CBD. Retail stores (including the Plaza) and eateries line the road surrounding the park.

In around 1878, a Māori contingent, including Te Awe Awe, gathered together to choose a Māori name for The Square. They chose Te Marae o Hine, meaning "The Courtyard of the Daughter of Peace". This name reflected their hope all people of all races would live together in enduring peace.

All Saints Anglican Church, Palmerston North (c.1914)
Palmerston North flag in front of the Clock Tower, The Square


Victoria Esplanade Gardens

Victoria Esplanade Gardens are located along the northern bank of the Manawatu River, west of Fitzherbert Avenue. The esplanade gardens include serene native bush surrounding family-friendly facilities, an aviary, a café, a duck pond, the Palmerston North Esplanade Scenic Railway featuring a 2.2 km track through native bush, the Peter Black Conservatory and walking tracks within the bush. The Dugald McKenzie Rose Garden is attached to the esplanade gardens.[21] The Gardens were opened to commemorate the 60th Jubilee of Queen Victoria's reign (1897).

Other parks

Nearby the Esplanade are the multi sport playing fields of Ongley and Manawaroa Parks, the twin turf hockey fields and Fitzherbert Park, the premier cricket ground. Elsewhere in the city are parks for sports like rugby, such as Coronation Park, Bill Brown Park and Colquhoun Park (also used for softball/baseball); and football: Skoglund Park (home of the Central Football Federation) and Celaeno Park. Memorial Park has a football pitch, and also has family-friendly facilities.

Aquatic Centres

The Lido Aquatic Centre is Palmerston North's largest. It provides outdoor facilities including a family leisure pool, a 50 m pool for competitive swimming and a dive pool. Indoor facilities include another family lesiure pool, spa pool, heated pool and a cafe. The Lido provides swimming lessons to anyone in need but most of the time it is for youth under 18.

Freyberg Community Pool is an all-year indoor swimming pool complex located next to Freyberg High School in Roslyn.


Palmerston North has a main public library with four branches and one mobile library. The central Palmerston North Library is located in the Square and houses the main collections. The other four are located in Ashhurst, Awapuni, Roslyn and Te Pātikitiki (Highbury).

Youth Space

Near the Square is the Youth Space, opened in September 2011 as a dedicated place for Palmerston North's many young people to congregate in a safe environment.[22]


The Tararua and Ruahine ranges are noted for being windy, and an ideal location for harnessing the power of the wind. The Tararua and Te Apiti Windfarms realise this.

The Tararua windfarm consists of 134 wind turbines with blade lengths of 23.5 and 45 metres. Part of this windfarm is in the area of Palmerston North City Council boundary.

Te Apiti windfarm on the brow of a hill in the Ruahine range chain next the Manawatu River, has 55 windmills with blade lengths of 35 metres. Trust Power owns the Tararua while Meridian Energy owns Te Apiti. Although Te Apiti is under the jurisdiction of Manawatu District, the proximity to Ashhurst make them an attraction for Palmerston North.



Te Manawa is the cultural museum of art, science and history. Attached to Te Manawa is the New Zealand Rugby Museum. There are many small independent galleries. Many of New Zealand's best-known artists came from or live in Palmerston North. The list includes Rita Angus, John Bevan Ford, Shane Cotton, Paul Dibble, Pat Hanly, Brent Harris, Bob Jahnke, John Panting, Carl Sydow and Tim Wilson.[23]

Performing arts

Palmerston North houses multiple theatres which regularly host musical performances, theatrical plays and formal events. These theatres include

  • Regent on Broadway Theatre is a 1393-seat multipurpose performing arts facility.[24]
  • Centrepoint Theatre is a prominent professional theatre and the only one outside the main centres of New Zealand.[25]
  • Globe Theatre is a small community theatre of about 100 seats, built in about 1984. It is currently undergoing redevelopment, with the addition of another 100 seat auditorium.

Top comics including John Clarke, Jon Bridges, Jeremy Corbett, Tom Scott all come from Palmerston North as do stage, television and film performers Paul Barrett, Shane Cortese, Kate Louise Elliott, Simon Ferry, Greg Johnson, Jeff Kingsford-Brown and Alison Quigan.[23]


Palmerston North is reputed to have the highest number of restaurants, eateries and cafe bars per capita in New Zealand.[26] There is a vast selection of ethnic food options including Thai, French, Chinese, Indian, Korean, Japanese, Cambodian, Mongolian, Italian, Irish, American, Pacific rim and New Zealand cuisines.[27]


Palmerston North has a thriving musical scene with many national and international acts touring through the town, and many local acts performing regularly.

Local groups include the Manawatu Sinfonia and Manawatu Youth Orchestra (MYO) who perform throughout the year. The Manawatu Youth Orchestra celebrated its 50th year in September 2011.


  • February: Esplanade Day
  • February–March: Summer Shakespeare
  • March: Festival of Cultures
  • March: Women's Lifestyle Expo
  • June: Manawatu Wedding Expo
  • September: International Spring Festival
  • September: Swampfest[28]
  • November: Tour de Manawatu Charity Cycle Challenge


Participation in sport is an important and popular pastime in Palmerston North. Representation at a national level is predominantly provincial based, meaning most sports teams representing Palmerston North also draw their players from other towns from around Manawatu.

The premier multi-sports venue in Palmerston North is Central Energy Trust Arena (previously the Palmerston North Showgrounds). The main stadium of Arena Manawatu is called Arena One, and is the home of the Manawatu Turbos rugby union team and the Robertson Holden International Speedway. There are indoor venues at Arena Manawatu where netball, basketball, volleyball and Badminton are played.

Other important venues include Memorial Park, Fitzherbert Park, Celaeno Park, Manawaroa/Ongley Park, Skoglund Park, Vautier Park and Massey University sports fields.

Club Sport League Venue
Manawatu Turbos Rugby Union ITM Cup Arena 1
Manawatu Cyclones Rugby Union Women's Provincial Championship Arena 1
Hurricanes Rugby Union Super Rugby Arena 1#
Manawatu Matadors (Current Champions) Hockey Central Hockey League Endevour Trust Twin Turfs
Manawatu Jets Basketball NBL Arena 2
Central Pulse Netball ANZ Championship Arena 2#
YoungHeart Manawatu Football(soccer) ASB Premiership Memorial Park
Central Districts Cricket Plunket Shield, Ford Trophy, T20 Fitzherbert Park#
  • # : not based in Manawatu, however home ground when playing in Manawatu.


Palmerston North is a significant road and rail junction. As such, it is an important distribution hub for the Central and lower North Island, with many freight distribution centres based here.


State Highway State Highway 3 NZ.svg is the main State Highway in Palmerston North.

State Highway State Highway 1 NZ.svg, New Zealand's main highway, passes about 25 km (16 mi) to the west of the city.

The city's main roads are arranged in a grid pattern. The streets of significance are

Street name State Highway Significance
Rangitikei Street State Highway 3 NZ.svg
to Grey St
the main portal to and from the north.
Main Street East State Highway 3 NZ.svg
from Princess St
the main portal to and from the east (from Ashhurst and Napier).
Main Street West main portal to and from the west
Fitzherbert Avenue the main portal to and from the south, crossing the Fitzherbert Bridge. This is the only bridge close to the city that crosses the Manawatu River. (The other bridge is Napier Road in Ashhurst, 14 km (9 mi) away.)

These four streets meet at the Square.

The City Ring Road

Heavy vehicles are prohibited in the Square and a city ring road exists for such traffic.

Street Name State Highway Main intersections
Grey Street State Highway 3 NZ.svg State Highway 3 NZ.svg Rangitikei St
Ngata St
Princess Street State Highway 3 NZ.svg Broadway Ave
Main StState Highway 3 NZ.svg
Church St
Ferguson Street Ashley St
Fitzherbert Ave
Linton St
Pitt Street Church St
Main St
Cuba St
Bourke Street Cuba St to
Walding Street Taonui St
Rangitikei St State Highway 3 NZ.svg
Grey Street

Fitzherbert East Road State Highway 57 NZ.svg is an alternative road to the Manawatu Gorge from the southern side of the Manawatu River.

Tennent Drive is the continuation of State Highway State Highway 57 NZ.svg from Levin. Enters from the southwest.

Milson Line, Railway Road, Roberts Line and Stoney Creek Road are alternative entries in the north from Feilding and rural northern Manawatu.

Pioneer Highway is the main western portal for traffic from State Highway 1, Foxton, Levin and Shannon.

Cambridge Avenue is the main street of Ashhurst.


Palmerston North is perceived as being better for cycling than most New Zealand cities, with 2001 figures putting it a close second only to Blenheim in terms of bicycle modal share.[29] The Manawatu River Pathway is great for family or beginners riders, as it is all flat to mildly contoured, with some limestone sections, as well as wide cement paths. The track has many access points to this trail, which runs for over 9 km between Maxwells Line in the West to Riverside Drive in the East. A new 3 km section has been added between Ashhurst and Raukawa Road, with plans to link this to the existing path over the next two years, making over 22 km of scenic tracks to explore alongside the river.

Palmerston North has a fairly comprehensive 65 km[30] on-road bicycle lane network, particularly in high traffic areas, to make it safer for people to get around the city by bike.[31]

Criticism The cycle lane network has been criticised for a number of reasons. Motor traffic is often too fast, and there is no physical barrier between bicyclists and motorists. Most bicycle lanes in the city are marked out with parking spaces for motorist parking, making those lanes 'pointless' and raising the risk of motorists opening car doors into the path of passing bicyclists.[32]

Rebecca Oaten, the so-called 'Helmet Lady' who campaigned nationwide in the late 1980s for a New Zealand bicycle helmet law, is from Palmerston North.[33]


Urban Services are coordinated by Horizons Regional Council, through Masterton-based bus company, Tranzit.

Five urban buses leave the terminal in Main Street East (in front of Palmerston North Courthouse) at least every half hour. The buses are assigned to loop routes servicing different parts of the city.

Buses are provided for students of Massey (both campuses) and IPC.

Daily services run to the nearby towns of Linton, Ashhurst and Feilding.

Across the North Island Inter-regional routes are operated by Intercity, Tranzit and Nakedbus. Intercity's routes run south (to Wellington), north (towards Auckland, via Wanganui, Rotorua and Taupo, or Napier) and east (to Masterton) from the bus terminal in The Square, Palmerston North. Naked Bus runs from outside thePalmerston North City i-SITE in the Square.


Palmerston North Airport Terminal Building

Palmerston North Airport is located in the suburb of Milson, on the outskirts of the city. It is approximately 5.5 km (3.4ml) from the central business district and is a regional gateway to gateway to the central North Island region.[34] The airport has regular services to domestic destinations including Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton, Nelson and Wellington. [35]All flights are currently served by Air New Zealand Link except for the flights to Nelson, which are operated by Originair.[36]

The airport is presently the operational base of the Massey University School of Aviation. [37] The airport is also an freight hub for Air Freight NZ and NZ Post. [38]


Platform at Palmerston North Railway Station

Palmerston North is an important passenger and freight stop on the North Island Main Trunk Railway. There are only two passenger trains run by KiwiRail: the weekday-only Capital Connection commuter train once a day to and from Wellington, and is a stop for the Northern Explorer to and from Auckland and Wellington.

Until 1964, the railway ran through the city centre, with Palmerston North Railway Station in The Square. The station was moved and the track diverted 2.5 km (2 mi) to the north by the Milson Deviation in 1959-1963; work on the deviation had started in 1926.

Near the current railway station, the North Island Main Trunk railway is joined by the Palmerston North - Gisborne Line, which runs through the Manawatu Gorge to Woodville and Hawke's Bay. A connection to the Wairarapa Line is at Woodville.


The major daily newspaper is the Manawatu Standard. Weekly community newspapers include the Tribune and the Guardian.

Most radio stations are based outside the city, however some on the nationwide networks have studios in Palmerston North. Local radio stations include More FM (formerly "2XS") featuring the popular "Mike West in the Morning" breakfast show from 6am-10am.[39] Sister station The Breeze also has a local breakfast show from 6am-10am hosted by Burnzee.[40] Radio Control is the local alternative student radio station, featuring local personality Abi Symes on "The Continental Breakfast" from 7am to 9am. Access Manawatu 999AM is a local community station and Kia Ora FM is the local Iwi station.


Ngāti Rangitāne were the local Māori iwi (tangata whenua) living in the area known as Te Ahu-ā-Tūranga,[41] when a trader, Jack Duff, became the earliest known European to explore the area c.1830. He came on a whaling ship, and explored possibly as far inland as the site of Woodville. He reported his discovery on arrival back to Porirua. Colonel Wakefield heard of the potential that the Manawatu had for development and visited in 1840. In 1846 Stephen Charles Hartley, another trader, heard from tangata whenua of a clearing in the Papaioea forest and he proceeded through the dense bush and forest and discovered it for Europeans.[4]

In 1858, the Government began negotiations with local iwi to purchase land in Manawatu. There is dispute at the time between rival iwi Ngāti Rangitāne and Ngāti Raukawa as to who has the right to sell. The dispute is resolved in favour of Rangitāne.

On a visit in 1859, John Tiffin Stewart, an employee of the Wellington Provincial Council,[42] was shown the Papaioea clearing by Rangitāne chief, Te Hirawanu, and noted its suitability for a "good site for a township".[43]

In 1864, Te Ahu-a-Turanga Block was sold by Rangitāne to the Government for £12,000, in an effort to open the Manawatu to settlement.

Stewart returned in 1866 on behalf of the Wellington Provincial Council (under whose jurisdiction the new purchase fell) and made the original survey and subdivision in the Papaioea forest clearing. The settlement, named Palmerston to commemorate the recently deceased Prime Minister of Great Britain, was laid out according to Stewart's plan consisting of a series of wide and straight streets in a rectangular pattern. The focal point was an open space of 17 acres (7 ha) subsequently known as The Square. On 3 October 1866, Palmerston was formally endorsed after Isaac Earl Featherston (Wellington Provincial Superintendent) signed a proclamation defining the boundaries of the settlement. The first sections were sold after.

Among the first settlers included Scandinavians, who arrived in 1871. They established settlements at Awapuni and Whakarongo/Stoney Creek.

Later the same year, the suffix 'North' was added to distinguish the settlement of the same name in the South Island. In 1872 a petition was launched to change the name of the settlement. A public meeting in 1873 ends with no clear decision on the name.

The railway line was laid through the Square in 1875.

In 1876, Palmerston North became a Local Board District, within the Wellington Provincial Council. This existed until the abolition of the Provinces later the same year.

Also in the same year, the council set aside land north of the Manawatu River for the purposes of a reserve. In 1890, this land was again set aside and would become in 1897, the Victoria Esplanade.

By 1877, when the Borough Council came into existence, Palmerston North was an isolated village in the midst of the native forest that covered inland Manawatu. By 1878, the population was approximately 800 people and sawmilling was the main industry of the district. As the settlement grew, the forest diminished to make way for farms and housing, and today virtually no remnant of it survives.[citation needed]

The arrival of the railway in 1886 saw an increase in the speed of growth and the town was at the centre of a lucrative agricultural district. The opening of the nearby Longburn Freezing Works provided employment, while the Borough Council instigated more infrastructural schemes such as the sewerage system. The Railway through the Manawatu Gorge to Napier was completed in 1891.

In 1893, Rangitāne sold the Hokowhitu block, increasing the area of land available for settlement. In the same year, the Public Hospital opened in a wooden building on Terrace Street (now Ruahine Street). The hospital required significant fundraising. At the end of the decade, the Boer War broke out in South Africa and men from Palmerston North volunteered.[44]

By 1900 the population was 6,000.[45] In 1902, the Manawatu River flooded.

In the 1910s Palmerston North's growth was steady. The population in 1911 about 10,991 (excluding Māori).[46] The city was affected by World War I, with Awapuni Racecourse being used as an army training camp in 1914. During the course of the war, the Borough Council renamed all German-sounding and foreign street names. When the war finished in 1918, celebrations were delayed due to the Influenza epidemic.

In 1930, the population reached the 20,000 threshold and Palmerston North was officially proclaimed a city, the 7th in New Zealand. Development was slow due to the great depression and World War II. An airport was established at Milson in 1936, which is now Palmerston North Airport.

From 1938, the first Labour government (1935-1949) initiated state housing programmes in West End (Savage Crescent precinct) and Roslyn.

In 1940 the Māori Battalion was formed in Palmerston North and trained at the Showgrounds (now Arena Manawatu).

In 1941, the Manawatu River flooded again. Large parts of Hokowhitu and Awapuni were underwater, with residents evacuating to higher ground (peaked at 5.8m).

In 1942, Linton Army Camp was established. After the war, growth was rapid.

In 1950, the city was enlarged to include Milson and Kelvin Grove. In 1953, the boundaries would extend to include Awapuni, which again, in the same year, was flooded by the Manawatu River, along with Hokowhitu. The largest flood since 1902.

Although work had started in 1926, it was not until 1959 the Milson Deviation of the North Island Main Trunk was opened, meaning future trains will pass to the north of the city, instead of through the Square. Later in 1963, the railway station at Tremaine Avenue opens. The last trains pass through the Square in 1964.

In 1961, the Highbury was added to the council area. In 1963, Massey University College of Manawatu was formed by the amalgamation of the Massey Agricultural College with the Palmerston North University College. In 1964, it becomes Massey University of Manawatu, an autonomous tertiary learning institution with the power to grant its own degrees.

In 1967, city boundaries were again extended to include land in Aokautere, Kelvin Grove, Milson, Amberley (Westbrook) and Awapuni as part of future growth for the next 25 years. In 1970, the Rugby Museum was established and a tribute to the founding father of rugby in New Zealand, Charles Munro, was opened at Massey University.

In 1971, a competition to design a civic building for the vacant railway land at the Square, is won by Wellington architects, Maurice and John Patience. The resulting building was finished in 1979. In 1976, the Manawatu and Oroua rivers flood, 24 hour rainfall records in Feilding and Palmerston North are exceeded and some residents from both locations are evacuated.

In 1977, Palmerston North City Council celebrated its Centenary of Municipal government. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are among visitors to Palmerston North.

On 1 November 1989, New Zealand local government authorities were reorganised. Palmerston North City boundaries were extended to include Ashhurst, Linton and Turitea through amalgamation of parts of the former Kairanga County, Oroua County and Ashhurst Town Council.

On 1 July 2012, Bunnythorpe, Longburn, part of the area around Kairanga and an area around Ashhurst were joined to Palmerston North City Council area.


Palmerston North City Council

Palmerston North Civic Administration Building

Palmerston North is governed by a city council which consists of a mayor and 15 councillors.

Previously for representation purposes, the city was divided into five wards (previously 6, however, 2 wards amalgamated). In April 2013, the Local Government Commission abolished the wards and therefore the city will elect its council on a city-wide basis.

Elections for Mayor and local government occur nationwide every three years, with the next election to take place in 2016. The 2013 election saw the Single Transferable Voting (STV) system introduced, replacing plurality voting (First past the post-FPP).

City Council elected in 2013:

Mayor Jono Naylor
Grant Smith #
Councillors – City Wide Susan Baty
Lew Findlay
Ross Linklater
Jim Jefferies
Chris Teo-Sherrell
Adrian Broad
Annette Nixon
Vaughan Dennison
Billy Meehan
Tangi Utikere
Duncan McCann
Bruce Wilson
Aleisha Rutherford
Leonie Hapeta
Grant Smith
Rachel Bowen[47]

‡ Jono Naylor resigned in 2014 after being elected on the list as a Member of Parliament.

# In a by-election held on 10 February 2015, Grant Smith was elected the new mayor of Palmerston North.

The Council's functions are broken down into seven units:

  • City Future
  • City Contact
  • City Corporate
  • City Enterprises
  • Community and Commercial Services
  • City Library
  • City Networks

The Chief Executive is Paddy Clifford.[48]

Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Regional Council

Palmerston North is the seat of the council.

For electoral and regional representation purposes, Palmerston North City makes up the Palmerston North constituency and is represented by 4 councillors:

Palmerston North Constituency Councillors as at 2015:

  • Murray Guy
  • Pat Kelly
  • Paul Rieger
  • Rachel Keedwell

Central Governance

Palmerston North in the parliamentary term spanning 2014 to 2017, is represented by 3 electorate MPs and 2 List MPs in Parliament.

Palmerston North
The boundaries of the electorate of Palmerston North have changed often since the introduction of MMP. It has been previously larger than now and formerly extended over the Manawatu River into the southern suburbs. A 2007 redraw transferred the southern suburbs to Rangitikei, in return for Kelvin Grove and Milson, making Palmerston North a completely urban electorate. Currently Palmerston North is surrounded by the Rangitikei electorate. Since 2008, the Palmerston North electorate has been held by Iain Lees-Galloway of Labour.

The large electorate of Rangitikei extends south to Palmerston North's southern and eastern ward (Ashhurst-Fitzherbert), therefore completely surrounding the electorate of Palmerston North (the only electorate thus surrounded completely by another). The electorate was formerly represented (1998-2011) by Simon Power (National) and has been represented by former Manawatu District Mayor Ian McKelvie (National) since the New Zealand general election at the end of that year.

Māori electorate: Te Tai Hauāuru
This large electorate includes all of the Palmerston North area. The electorate is currently held by Adrian Rurawhe of the Labour Party.

List Members
The incumbent Mayor Jono Naylor made himself available to stand as a candidate for Palmerston North representing the National Party. Though he did not win the seat, his party's strong vote return on Election night secured his seat in Parliament. Naylor subsequently resigned as Mayor.

The other new MP is Darroch Ball of New Zealand First. A strong return for his party on Election night secured his seat in Parliament.

Sister Cities

Palmerston North has two sister cities:[49]

Notable Personalities

Named after the city


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External links

Official websites

Unofficial portals