Wellington (Māori: Te Whanganui-a-Tara) is the capital city and second most populous urban area of New Zealand, with 405,000 residents. It is at the south-western tip of the North Island, between Cook Strait and the Rimutaka Range. Wellington is the major population centre of the southern North Island and is the administrative centre of the Wellington Region, which also includes the Kapiti Coast and Wairarapa. It is the world’s southernmost capital of a sovereign state.
The Wellington urban area comprises four local authorities: Wellington City, on the peninsula between Cook Strait and Wellington Harbour, contains the central business district and about half the population; Porirua on Porirua Harbour to the north is notable for its large Māori and Pacific Island communities; Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt are largely suburban areas to the northeast, together known as the Hutt Valley.
Situated near the geographic centre of the country, Wellington was well placed for trade. In 1839 it was chosen as the first major planned settlement for British immigrants coming to New Zealand. The settlement was named in honour of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington and victor of the Battle of Waterloo.
As the nation’s capital since 1865, the New Zealand Government and Parliament, Supreme Court and most of the civil service are based in the city. Despite being much smaller than Auckland, Wellington is also referred to as New Zealand’s cultural capital. The city is home to the National Archives, the National Library, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, numerous theatres, and two universities. Architectural sights include the Government Building—one of the largest wooden buildings in the world—as well as the iconic Beehive. Wellington plays host to many artistic and cultural organisations, including the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Royal New Zealand Ballet. It has a lively urban culture, with many cafés, restaurants, and performance venues. One of the world’s most liveable cities, the 2014 Mercer Quality of Living Survey ranked Wellington 12th in the world.
Wellington’s economy is primarily service-based, with an emphasis on finance, business services, and government. It is the centre of New Zealand’s film and special effects industries, and increasingly a hub for information technology and innovation. Wellington ranks as one of New Zealand’s chief seaports and serves both domestic and international shipping. The city is served by Wellington International Airport, the third busiest airport in the country. Wellington’s transport network includes train and bus lines which reach as far as the Kapiti Coast and Wairarapa, and ferries connect the city to the South Island.
Legends recount that Kupe discovered and explored the district in about the 10th century. The earliest date with hard evidence for Maori living in New Zealand is about 1280.
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 hilly terrain.
Wellington is at the south-western tip of the North Island on Cook Strait, separating 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 notability. With a latitude of 41° 17′ South, Wellington is the southernmost capital city in the world. It is also the most remote capital city, the farthest away from any other capital. It is more densely populated than most other cities in New Zealand due to the restricted amount of land that is available between its harbour and the surrounding hills. It has very few open areas in which to expand, and this has brought about the development of the suburban towns. Because of its location in the Roaring Forties and its exposure to the winds blowing through Cook Strait, Wellington is the world’s windiest city, with an average wind speed of 27 km/h (17 mph), and so is known by the nickname „Windy Wellington“.