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Wellington, New Zealand

Explore New Zealand's Capital City


Wellington at dusk

Wellington at dusk as viewed from the harbour

© Totally Wellington

Whatever else it may be, Wellington is first of all the capital of New Zealand and the cultural, commercial, cosmopolitan centre of the country.

In population, it is New Zealand's second largest city.

Located at the southern tip of the North Island of New Zealand it is, as well, in the country's geographical centre, and the South Island is just a ferry ride away.

For all that, it could just as well be a secret city. For most international visitors to New Zealand, it would seem that the destinations of choice are Auckland in the north and Christchurch and Queenstown in the south.

However, Totally Wellington communications manager Gretchen Leuthart said in an email in 2000: "Well, that may have been the case five years ago, but in the past few years Wellington has transformed into New Zealand's hottest urban destination and the city now surpasses Rotorua as New Zealand's fourth busiest destination."

One possible reason why Wellington is not a primary New Zealand destination to many is that, aside from Air New Zealand and Qantas, most international airlines do not land at Wellington.

And despite its being the nation's capital and the seat of its government, there are those who would be hard put trying to list the city's attractions, although in fact, said Leuthart, it should be pointed out "how the city has transformed itself via its café, fashion, restaurant, nightlife and artistic culture into a happening destination."

This, of course, is where organisations like Totally Wellington come in.

Before the European settlers came, it was a Maori chief named Whatonga who first came upon the region. The original Maori name for the place was Te Whanga-Nui-a-Tara, named after Whatonga's son Tara.

Tara and his half-brother were sent to explore the southern part of the region and their report must have been glowing for Whatonga's followers settled by the harbour, founding the Ngati Tara tribe.

In the late 1830s, Colonel William Wakefield arrived to buy land from the Maori on which two European settlements would be built.

So it was that on January 22, 1940, European settlers arrived on the New Zealand Company ship Aurora

There were misunderstandings on exactly what Wakefield had purchased, resulting in land rights struggles.

Nonetheless, by 1865 the seat of New Zealand government had been moved from Auckland to Wellington.

Wellington. The new capital was named after the first Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, British general and statesman who was prime minister of Britain from 1828 to 1830.

And, yes, he was the English tane who commanded the British Army against Napoleon in the Peninsular War (1808-14) and at Waterloo (1815) when the British once were warriors.

Next page: The Ws Have It

    (Photo courtesy of Totally Wellington, official regional tourism office for Wellington
    © Totally Wellington)

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