Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, has the country's second largest metropolitan area. Wellington has a reputation for its picturesque natural harbour and green hillsides adorned with tiered suburbs of colonial villas. Known in Māori as Te Whanganui a Tara (the harbour of Tara -- after the Maori name for Wellingon Harbour), Wellington stands alongside Melbourne as a cultural centre of Australasia, with a thriving arts scene, café culture and buzzing nightlife that locals say rival those of cities many times its size.
Location and demographics
Wellington stands at the southwestern tip of the North Island on Cook Strait, the passage that divides 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.
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 are further concentrated in the southern part of the CBD, making the inner city suburb of Te Aro the largest entertainment destination in New Zealand.
Wellington is the southernmost national capital city in the world with a latitude about 41 degrees south. 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 urban area population was estimated at 363,400 for June 2003; that includes most of each of the satellite cities of Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt, and Porirua. The Wellington Region, however, extends much further, including the Districts of Kapiti Coast, South Wairarapa, Carterton, and Masterton.
Wellington Harbour has three islands: Somes (Matiu in Maori), Ward (Makaro) and Mokopuna. Only 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 stopoff on the Dominion Post Ferry (http://www.eastbywest.co.nz/).
The city has an average annual rainfall of 1270 mm.
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. Their settlement was named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. According to legend it was originally named "Britannia" and constructed on the flat area at the mouth of the Hutt River (now Petone) but when this was found to be too swampy and flood-prone the plans were transplanted without regard for a more hilly terrain—Wellington has some extremely steep streets running straight up the sides of hills.
Wellington was seriously damaged by a series of earthquakes in 1848 and another earthquake in 1855. The event in 1855 is now known as the Wairarapa earthquake and occurred on a fault line to the north or east of Wellington. It was probably the most powerful earthquake in recorded New Zealand history, with an estimated magnitude of at least 8.2. It caused vertical movements of 2-3 m to land 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. This is the reason the street named Lambton Quay is now 100-200 m from the harbour. There are a number of plaques set into the footpath on Lambton Quay, at major intersections, that indicate where the shoreline was located in 1840 to show the extent of the uplift.
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 at least one earthquake 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 Government Buildings, between 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 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.
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).
Wellington attained city status in 1886.
Among the 60-odd officially-defined suburbs are:
Victoria University, Wellington's oldest university has its main campus in the hill suburb of Kelburn overlooking the centre of the city, but also has two major downtown campuses. It was originally established as a constituent college of the University of New Zealand.
The University of New Zealand used to be based at Senate House on Bowen Street until its dissolution in 1961.
There is also a branch of Massey University in Wellington, taking over the former Wellington Polytechnic. The campus is based at the previous national museum (the Dominion Museum) that has been replaced by the Te Papa ("Our Place") Museum. Massey's involvement with Wellington began with the merger with the Wellington Polytechnic School.
The oldest secondary school in Wellington is the Wellington College, and is a nationally recognised school in terms of producing Governors-General, military Generals, business leaders and other leaders.
One of the major secondary schools in Wellington is Wellington High School, with the number of enrolled students hovering around 1200. It is also notable for being the only co-educational school in the central city. Formerly associated with the Polytech as the "Wellington Technical College", it later split.
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