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Encyclopedia > Wanganui, New Zealand
Urban Area Population 38,900
Extent Westmere to Marybank
Name Wanganui District
Population 43,300
Extent Maitotara to

Whangaehu River;

north to Kakatahi and Pipiriki
Name Manawatu-Wanganui

Wanganui is an urban area and district on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand.

Like several New Zealand centres, it was officially designated a city until administrative reorganisation in 1989, and is now run by a District Council. Despite this, it is still regarded as a city by most New Zealanders.


Wanganui City

Victoria Avenue, Wanganui's main street

Wanganui is located on the South Taranaki Bight, close to the mouth of the Whanganui River. It is 150 kilometres north of Wellington and 75 kilometres northwest of Palmerston North, at the junction of State Highways 3 and 4. Most of the city lies on the river's northwestern bank, although some subusrbs are located on the opposite side of the river.

The city enjoys a temperate climate, with slightly above the national average sunshine (2100 hours per annum), and about 900 mm of annual rainfall. Frosts in winter are uncommon, but not rare.

Wanganui is the seat of the Wanganui District Council. The current mayor is Michael Laws.


The area around the mouth of the Whanganui was a major site of pre-European Maori settlement. When the city of Wellington was established it became an important centre for trade. With the increased number of British settlers arriving in the country, it became a logical site for the establishment of a new town.

The early years of the new town were problematic. Purchase of land from the local tribes had been haphazard and irregular, and as such many Maori were angered with the influx of pakeha onto land which they still claimed. It was not until the town had been established for eight years that agreements were finally reached between the colonials and local tribes, and some resentment continued (and still filters through to the present day).

Wanganui grew rapidly after this time, with land being cleared for pasture. The town was a major military centre during the Land Wars of the 1860s, although local Maori at Putiki Pa remained friendly to the town's settlers.

The Whanganui River catchment is seen as a sacred area to Maori, and the Wanganui region is still seen as a focal point for any resentments over land ownership. In 1995, the Moutoa Gardens in Wanganui, known to local Maori as Pakaitore, were occupied for 79 days in a mainly peaceful protest by the Whangaui iwi over land claims.

The name

The difference in name between the river and the city is due to historical changes in both. The area was originally called Whanganui by Maori, meaning big bay or big harbour. The first name of the European settlement was Petre, after Lord Petre, an important officer of the New Zealand Company, but it reverted to the name Wanganui, used by local Maori in 1852. The influence of the local Maori dialect could have played a part in the name being spelt without an H. The river also became known simply as the Wanganui River.

The river's name was reverted to Whanganui in 1991, according with the wishes of local iwi. Part of the reason was also to avoid confusion with the Wanganui River in the South Island. The city, however, has kept the abbreviated spelling of its name.

City features

Prominent buildings of the city include the Royal Wanganui Opera House and the Sarjeant Art Gallery. The Royal Wanganui Opera House was built in 1901, and is one of the city's more prominent buildings.

Cook's Gardens are a major sporting venue, used for cricket, cycling, and athletics. On January 27, 1962, a world record for the mile was set by Peter Snell at the gardens.

Much of the city is one the river's northwest bank. The river is crossed by three bridges: Cobham Bridge, City Bridge, and Dublin Street Bridge. Close to the southeast end of the City Bridge is one of Wanganui's more unusual features, an elevator tunnel leading to a monument on the top of Durie Hill.

Suburbs of the city include: (clockwise of the city centre from due south): Gonville, Castlecliff, Springvale, St. John's Hill, Aramoho, Wanganui East, Bastia Hill, and Durie Hill. Of these, all except Wanganui East, Bastia Hill, and Durie Hill are on the northwest bank.


A considerable proportion of Wanganui's economy relates directly to the fertile and prosperous farming area which surrounds the city. Other local industries include engineering and port facilities.

Wanganui District

The district has an area of 2373 km2. Much of the land in the Wanganui District is rough hill country surrounding the valley of the Whanganui River. A large proportion of this is within the Whanganui National Park.

All but some 4,500 people in the Wanganui district live in the city itself. There are thus few notable settlements in the district.The most notable is Jerusalem.

External links

  • The district council's website (http://www.wanganui.govt.nz/)
  • Wikitravel Wanganui page (http://wikitravel.org/en/article/Wanganui)
Territorial Authorities of New Zealand
North Shore | Waitakere | Auckland | Manukau | Hamilton | Tauranga | Napier | Palmerston North | Porirua | Upper Hutt | Lower Hutt | Wellington | Nelson* | Christchurch | Dunedin | Invercargill
North Island: | Far North | Whangarei | Kaipara | Rodney | Papakura | Franklin | Thames-Coromandel | Hauraki | Waikato | Matamata-Piako | Waipa | South Waikato | Otorohanga | Rotorua | Waitomo | Taupo | Western Bay of Plenty | Whakatane | Kawerau| Opotiki | Gisborne* | Wairoa | Hastings | Central Hawke's Bay | New Plymouth | Stratford | South Taranaki | Ruapehu | Wanganui | Rangitikei | Manawatu | Tararua | Horowhenua | Kapiti Coast | Masterton | Carterton | South Wairarapa
South Island: Tasman* | Marlborough* | Buller | Grey | Westland | Kaikoura | Hurunui | Waimakariri | Banks Peninsula | Selwyn| Ashburton | Timaru | Mackenzie | Waimate | Waitaki | Queenstown-Lakes | Central Otago | Clutha | Gore | Southland
Territory: Chatham Islands
*unitary authorities

  Results from FactBites:
Map of New Zealand - Physical, political and road maps of New Zealand Atlas, New Zealand Atlas (336 words)
Includes a map of Paris, map of Provence and a road map of New Zealand.
This is an atlas and map of New Zealand, showing all of the regions (or autonomous communities).
All maps marked as copyright other than © Map of New Zealand or © Rob Hilken are not permitted for use without permission of the copyright holder.
Wanganui, New Zealand - definition of Wanganui, New Zealand in Encyclopedia (812 words)
Wanganui is an urban area and district on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand.
Wanganui is located on the South Taranaki Bight, close to the mouth of the Whanganui River.
Wanganui is the seat of the Wanganui District Council.
  More results at FactBites »



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