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Palmerston North ( ) is the main city of the Manawatu-Wanganuimarker region of the North Islandmarker of New Zealandmarker. It is an inland city with a population of In 2008 it was the 11th-largest city in New Zealand, and the centre of the seventh-largest urban area. A large proportion of its population consists of students attending Massey Universitymarker, Universal College of Learning (UCOL) or International Pacific College during the student year. Over half of the city's population is under the age of 25 and the city has been marketed as 'Student City'.


The city was first named "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 Palmerstonmarker in the South Islandmarker, though locals still widely refer to the city simply as Palmerston or "Palmy".Locals are known as Palmerstonians.

Māori name

The Māori transliteration of Palmerston is "Pamutana", but this is largely unused, with Papa-i-oea (commonly contracted to Papaioea) being the preferred option, e.g. Te Kura Kōhine o Papaioea (Palmerston North Girls' High School) and Te Hohipera o Papaioea (Palmerston North Hospital). Papa-i-oea is believed to mean "How beautiful it is".


Ngāti Rangitāne were the local Māori iwi (tangata whenua) living in the area known as Te Ahu-a-Turanga, when a trader, Jack Duff, became the first known European to explore the area in 1830. He came on a whaling ship, and explored 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 Charles Hartley, another trader, heard from tangata whenua of a clearing in the forest and he proceeded through the dense bush and forest and discovered it for Europeans.

The Government surveyed the area in 1866-67. The original subdivision of Palmerston North was made in 1866, in the natural clearing in the Papaioea Forest, as found by Hartley. A township was laid out by J.T. Stewart, an employee of the Wellington Provincial Government.

Stewart's plan consisted of a series of wide and straight streets, laid out in a rectangular pattern, with the focal point being an open space of subsequently known as The Square. Landmarks named after Stewart included Stewart Crescent in Palmerston North and Mt Stewart, near Sanson.

The four original streets meeting at the Square are now called Fitzherbert Avenue (from the south), Main Street East, Main Street West and Rangitikei Street. As the settlement grew, the forest diminished to make way for farms, and today virtually no remnant of it survives.

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. The population was approximately 800 people and sawmilling was the main industry of the district. The arrival of the railway in 1886 saw an increase in the speed of growth, and by 1900 the population was 6,000. By this time the town was at the centre of a lucrative agricultural district.

In 1930, the population reached the 20,000 threshold and Palmerston North was officially proclaimed a city. 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 International Airportmarker. After the war growth was rapid, with the population rising to over 50,000 by the mid 1970s.


Palmerston North covers an area of and one million people live within a two-hour drive (200 km/120 mile radius). It is about north of the capital, Wellingtonmarker, in the eastern part of the Manawatu Plains, and close to the northern bank of the Manawatu Rivermarker. It is from the river's mouth and from the end of the Manawatu Gorge.

The official limits of the city take in rural areas to the south and north-east of the main urban area, extending to the Tararua Rangesmarker and including the town of Ashhurstmarker at the mouth of the Manawatu Gorge. This is a rich and fertile agricultural area.

Physical environment

Land Area :

Area In Public Reserves :

Highest Point (Elevation): above sea level (in the ranges south-east of Scotts Road)

Lowest Point (Elevation) : above sea level (river bank near Te Puna Road)

Typical Urban Area Elevation : 20–40 metres (65–130 ft)

Length Of River (Within City Boundary) : (Manawatu River) & (Pohangina River)


Palmerston North's climate is temperate with maximum daytime temperatures averaging in summer and in winter. On average temperatures rise above on 20 days of the year. Annual rainfall is approximately with rain occurring approximately 5% of the time. There are on average 200 rain-free days each year.

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 has the reputation of providing the most consistent wind in the country. As a result, Palmerston North is under increasing tension between wind farm operators who want to build more renewable energy wind turbines and local residents who wish to continue to enjoy untouched scenery. Close to the city is the largest electricity-generating wind farm in the southern hemisphere, with 158 turbines in the Tararuamarker and Ruahine Rangesmarker providing power for approximately 30,000 homes.


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.

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

Palmerston North's ethnicity was made up of (national figure in brackets): 71.4% European (67.6%), 15.4% Maori (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%).

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


The tertiary education sector provides NZ$1 billion a year to the local economy and the education sector accounted for 11.3% 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 Universitymarker; the Massey University Sport and Recreation Institute at the Massey University campus, Turitea; Universal College of Learning (UCOL) and Linton Army Camp.

44,870 employees worked in Palmerston North in February 2006, 2.5% of employees in New Zealand. The largest industry in terms of employees was the health and community services industry, which employed 14.9% of employees in the city. The retail trade industry employed 13.3% of employees in the city.

Parks and recreation

The Square

The Square, Palmerston North
The city's main streets are arranged in a grid around The Square, a seven-hectare park of lawn, trees, lakes, fountains, and gardens in the centre of the city. This park contains the city's war memorial, a memorial to Te Peeti Te Awe Awe, the Rangitāne chief who was instrumental in the sale of Palmerston North district to the government in 1865, and a clock tower whose illuminated cross was damaged in a storm in the first half of 2006.The damage to the cross and its subsequent removal rekindled a discussion about the appropriateness of a Christian symbol in the centre of a city whose citizens are of many cultures and religious backgrounds.The Māori name for the Square is Te Marae o Hine. Te Peeti Te Awe Awe was one member of a Māori contingent who gathered around 1878 to choose a Māori name for The Square. The meaning of the name is The Courtyard of the Daughter of Peace chosen in the hope that all people and all races would live together in enduring peace.


There are a number of parks in the city. The foremost is the Victoria Esplanade along the northern bank of the Manawatu River, to the west of Fitzherbert Avenue. The esplanade includes gardens, children's play areas, an aviary, a miniature railway, walking tracks, and sports fields (Ongley-Manawaroa Park).

City promotion

The city has used many descriptions in advertising and promotion, including "Rose City" (referring to its international rose trial grounds) and "Knowledge City" or "Student City" (referring to the city's many academic institutions).The current slogan, "Young Heart, Easy Living", indicates that Palmerston North is a city of young people and people with a youthful attitude.

Crime and policing

Palmerston North is the main centre of the New Zealand Police's Central District.Palmerston North has improved from 36th to 7th in a list of the best places for low crime figures (2008). Overall, crime dropped by 10% in the past year (2008). This is a result of organisations working together on prevention and enforcement strategies. 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.


Sport in the Palmerston North area is predominantly provincial based. Palmerston North is a provincial city, and most sports teams draw their players from around the province of Manawatu. Most representative teams have players from Feildingmarker or other neighbouring towns.

The most famous team to have "Palmerston North" in its title was the Palmerston North Jets Basketball Team, but they changed their name to Manawatu earlier this decade.

FMG Stadium is the home of the Robertson Holden International Speedway. Palmerston North has a Stock car racing team known as the Palmerston North Panthers, now the most famous sports team to carry the Palmerston North name

The city is popular with cricket. Fitzherbert Park will host 2010 Under19 Cricket World Cup in which 16 teams from around the world will take part along with hosts . Fitzherbert Park is a cricket ground in Palmerston North in New Zealand, a home ground of the Central Districts.[1] In February 2000, New Zealand Women defeated England Women at the ground.

The city is the home of the Manawatu Turbos, who play in the Air New Zealand Cup, the premiere competition in New Zealand provincial rugby. The home ground is at FMG Stadiummarker. The Ezibuy Manawatu Women's rugby team also plays at FMG Stadium.

YoungHeart Manawatu is one of 8 franchise teams competing in the New Zealand Football Championship, the premier national competition. The team formerly played at FMG Stadiummarker, now at Memorial Park.

The Central Districts Stags is the region's premier cricket team and plays in the national State Championship. The team includes of a number of players born and bred in Palmerston North. Games are played at Fitzherbert Park.

John Cleese controversy

Comedian John Cleese raised the ire of residents in 2006 when he described the City as the "suicide capital of New Zealand". Cleese said he had a "bloody miserable time" while there as part of his 2005 tour of New Zealand, and suggested that "[i]f you wish to kill yourself but lack the courage to, I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick". Locals responded a year later by naming a hill of refuse at the local landfill "Mt Cleese".



The city is a significant road and rail junction. State Highways 56 and 57 meet State Highway 3 close to the city, with these highways providing the main streets of the city. State Highway 1, New Zealand's main highway, passes about to the west.

State Highway 3 enters the city from the north-west as Rangitikei Street before turning left into Grey Street, north of the Square. On the opposite sides of The Square are Main Street West (in the south-west) and Fitzherbert Avenue (to the south-east), which connect with State Highways 56 and 57 respectively.

Many of the city's main public buildings are close to The Square and to Main Street East.

Palmerston North city centre from Palmerston North Hospital.

Fitzherbert Avenue extends south, crossing the Fitzherbert Bridge, the only bridge over the Manawatu River close to the city. The other is Fitzherbert East Road in Ashhurst, away. Massey Universitymarker and International Pacific College (IPC), as well as some of the newly developed residential areas (Summerhill, Aokautere), are located east of the river.


Palmerston North International Airportmarker in the suburb of Milson is a secondary international airport. Domestic services are operated mostly by Air New Zealand. There have been no international services since Freedom Air ceased to operate in March 2008, and proposed replacement carrier OzJet cancelled its plans only four days before they were due to commence.

Palmerston North International Airport is the operational base of the Massey Universitymarker School af Aviation, and by night is as a busy domestic freight hub.


At Palmerston North 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 Baymarker, with a connection to the Wairarapa Line at Woodville. The railway was originally routed through The Square, but was diverted to the north in 1964-1966. There are only two passenger trains: the Monday-Friday Capital Connection to and from Wellington, and the Overlander to Auckland and Wellington.


There is an urban bus service: five town buses and one campus bus leave the terminal in Main Street East (in front of the Palmerston North Courthouse) at least every half hour. It is run in conjunction between Horizons Regional Council and Masterton-based bus company Tranzit.

Bus Route name Services
Rangiora/Brightwater southern portion of Roslyn, including Terrace End and Hokowhitu
Roslyn/Rhodes northern portion of Roslyn and Kelvin Grove
Milson/Cloverlea Milson, Cloverlea and parts of Takaro
Awapuni/Rugby Awapuni South and Awapuni North
Highbury/Takaro Highbury, Takaro and Westbrook
Fernlea/Heights Kelvin Grove
12,12A,12B,12C,(14), 15 Massey services (14 also services IPC)

Occasionally there are buses which service Linton, Ashhurst and Feildingmarker. There are frequent bus services to Massey (both Turitea and Hokowhitu Campuses) and IPC Campus.

Intercity buses run primarily run south (to Wellingtonmarker), north (towards Aucklandmarker, via Wanganuimarker, Taupo, or Napiermarker) and east (to Mastertonmarker) from a terminus at the intersection of Main and Pitt Sts.


The large number of students from Massey, UCOL and IPC bring a youth culture to the city, helping to support the many cafes and bars. Highbury is the home of the Papaioea Campus of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

Tertiary Education Institutions
School Name Location
Massey Universitymarker Turitea
Massey University College of Education Hokowhitu
Universal College of Learning Palmerston North Central
International Pacific College Aokautere
Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Highbury

Secondary schools

School Name Location
St Peter's Collegemarker Milson
Palmerston North Boys' High Schoolmarker (PNBHS) Palmerston North Hospital Area
Palmerston North Girls High Schoolmarker (PNGHS) West Endmarker
Queen Elizabeth Collegemarker (QEC) Palmerston North Hospital Area
Freyberg High Schoolmarker (FHS) Roslynmarker
Awatapu Collegemarker Awapuni Southmarker
Longburn Adventist Collegemarker (LAC) Longburn


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

The Council consists of a Mayor and 15 Councillors. The Council's functions are broken down into seven units: City Future, City Contact, City Corporate, City Enterprises, Community and Commercial Services, City Librarymarker and City Networks. The Chief Executive is Paddy Clifford.

The mayor is Jono Naylor, who was a councillor representing Hokowhitu. Elections for Mayor and local government occur nationwide every three years, with the next election to take place in 2010.

The City Council is in the Civic Administration Building and the Customer Service Centre building, both on the Square.

Palmerston North City is divided into five wards since Ashhurst and Fitzherbert wards have amalgamated. Four of these are urban and one rural.

Wards of Palmerston North
Ward Name Suburbs including Number of Councillor(s) Councillors
Ashhurst-Fitzherbert Ward Ashhurst, Whakarongo, Turitea, Linton, Massey University, Aokautere Two Cr B Wilson
Cr Anne Podd
Awapuni Ward Awapuni West, Awapuni North, Awapuni South Three Cr Annette Nixon
Cr P J Wheeler
Cr Pat Kelly

Hokowhitu Ward Hokowhitu East, Hokowhitu West, Hokowhitu Lagoon, Terrace End, part of Papaioea Three Cr Gordon Cruden
Cr Jim Jeffries
Cr Chris Teo-Sherrell

Papaioea Ward Milson, Roslyn, Kelvin Grove, Palmerston North Hospital Area, Papaioea Four Cr John Hornblow Cr Lew Findlay
Cr Jan Barnett
Cr Ross Linklater

Takaro Ward Takaro, Highbury, Westbrook, Cloverlea Three Cr Michael Feyen
Cr Vaughn Dennison
Cr David Ireland


Palmerston North City Council provides rubbish collections, water management, environmental management (e.g. Parks and Reserves) and the general maintenance of the city. Recently the City Council has funded the upgrading of the Square and the Clocktower and has proposed new infrastructure for the city, such as a recreational lake in Aokautere and a second bridge to ease traffic congestion at Fitzherbert Bridge.

Sister cities

Palmerston North has two sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities NZ (SCI):

Musical scene

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

Local groups include the Manawatu Sinfonia and Manawatu Youth Orchestra (MYO) who perform throughout the year. Both these groups rehearse at Square edge under the guidance of Mr Schwabe, the conductor who has been present within the musical community of Palmersotn North for a number of years now. Within the community there is also the Manawatu Concert Band (MCB) which holds its practices at Freyburgh High School.

Notable personalities


  1. See List of cities in New Zealand
  3. PALMERSTON NORTH - 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
  6. Dictionary Of New Zealand Biography
  7. NZ Police: Central District
  10. Palmerston North City Council website: About Council
  11. Mayor and Councillors - Palmerston North City Council
  12. Creative Sounds Society Incorporated
  13. Student City - Swampfest 2007

External links

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