Wanganui is an urban area
and district on the west coast of the North
Island of New
It is part
of the Manawatu-Wanganui
Like several New Zealand centres, it was officially designated a
administrative reorganisation in 1989, and is now run by a District
Council. Despite this, it is still regarded as a city by most New
There is a recommendation from the New Zealand Geographic Board
that the name be changed to "Whanganui", but this has yet to be
approved by the Minister for Land Information.
is located on the South Taranaki
Bight, close to the mouth of the Whanganui River. It is 200 kilometres
north of Wellington and 75
kilometres northwest of Palmerston
the junction of State
Highways 3 and 4.
Most of the town lies on the river's
northwestern bank, although some suburbs are located on the
opposite side of the river.
It enjoys a temperate climate, with slightly above the national
average sunshine (2100 hours per annum), and about 900 mm of annual
rainfall. Several frosts are experienced in winter.
It is administered by Wanganui District Council. The current mayor
is Michael Laws
The area around the mouth of the Whanganui was a major site of
1820s coastal tribes in the area assaulted the Kapiti Island of Ngāti Toa chief Te
Te Rauparaha retaliated in 1830 sacking
and slaughtering the
inhabitants.The first European traders arrived in 1831, followed in
1840 by missionaries Octavius
and Henry Williams
collected signatures for the Treaty
. After the New
Zealand Company had settled in Wellington the company
looked for more suitable places for settlers.
Wakefield, son of Edward Gibbon
, negotiated the sale of 40,000 acres
in 1840. A town, originally known as Petre was
established at the river mouth shortly after. The name was
officially changed to Wanganui on 20 January 1854.
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 Māori were angered with the influx of Pākehā
onto land that 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
Māori at Putiki remained friendly to the town's settlers. In 1871 a
town bridge was opened followed six years later by the railway
bridge at Aramoho. The town was linked by rail to both New Plymouth and Wellington by
Wanganui was incorporated as a Borough
February 1872 and declared a city on 1 July 1924.
The Watt Fountain in Victoria Avenue,
the old Post Office building is in the background
Perhaps the city's biggest scandal happened in 1920, when the
Mayor, Charles Mackay, shot and wounded a young poet, D'Arcy Cresswell
, who had been blackmailing
him over his homosexuality
served seven years in prison and his name was erased from the
city's civic monuments, while Cresswell (himself homosexual) was
praised as a "wholesome-minded young man".
Victoria Avenue, Wanganui's main
The Whanganui River
seen as a sacred area to Māori, and the Wanganui region is still
seen as a focal point for any resentment over land ownership.
Moutoa Gardens in Wanganui,
known to local Māori as Pakaitore, were occupied for 79
days in a mainly peaceful protest by the Whanganui iwi over land
Wanganui was the site of the New
Zealand Police Law Enforcement
(LES) from 1976 to 1995. An early Sperry mainframe
based intelligence and data management system, it was
known colloquially as the "Wanganui Computer"
. The data
centre housing the LES
was subject to New
Zealand's highest profile suicide
in 1982 when anarchist
Roberts detonated a gelignite
bomb in the
entry foyer. Roberts was the only casualty of the bombing.
Wanganui has also become famous for being the only city/district to
ban gang insignia and to give Police new powers to control gangs.
Legislation was passed through Parliament in May 2009. The bill
became known as 'Laws' Law' after the current mayor who championed
the legislation although it was steered through Parliament by local
MP Chester Borrows.
means big bay
or big harbour
Europeans called it Petre
(pronounced Peter), after Lord
Petre, an officer of the New Zealand
, but the name did not persist.
Wanganui or Whanganui?
In the local accent, Māori
followed by a glottal stop, and the name
as something like "W'anganui", hard to reproduce by non-locals.
Until recently it was generally written as "Wanganui" and
pronounced with a w
by non-speakers of Māori
and a wh
by those Māori speakers
from other areas who knew its derivation.
Following an article about the river by David Young in the New Zealand Geographic
used "Whanganui" throughout, in accord with the wishes of the local
, the spelling of the river's name reverted
to Whanganui in 1991. The region's name is now sometimes also spelt
"Whanganui", but the city has kept the spelling "Wanganui".
As a result, many people from outside the area now take pains to
pronounce the river and the region as "Whanganui" and the city as
"Wanganui", though the variant spellings do not reflect any
difference in the underlying name.
A non-binding referendum
was held in
Wanganui in 2006, where 82 percent voted for Wanganui without an
'h'. Turnout was 55.4 percent.
In February 2009, the New
Zealand Geographic Board
received a proposal that the city's
name should be spelt "Whanganui", and in late March found there was
a good case for the change. The public was given three months to
comment on the proposed change, beginning in mid May. About equal
numbers of submissions supported and opposed the change. Wanganui
Mayor Michael Laws spoke strongly against the proposed change.
Another referendum was held in Wanganui in May 2009 and residents
again rejected changing the city name 77-22. Turnout was 60%. The
Geographic Board decided in September 2009 that the name should be
spelled "Whanganui", but the decision will be reviewed by the
Minister for Land Information.
Wanganui viewed from Durie Hill
Prominent buildings of the city include the Sarjeant Art Gallery
, and the Royal Wanganui Opera House
was built in 1901.
Cook's Gardens are a major sporting venue, used for cricket,
cycling, and athletics. On January 27, 1962, a world record time
for running the mile
was set by Peter Snell
on the grass track at the
Much of the city is on the river's northwest bank. The river is
crossed by four bridges - Cobham Bridge, City Bridge, Dublin Street
Bridge and Aramoho Railway Bridge (rail and pedestrians only).
Close to the southeast end of the City Bridge is one of Wanganui's
more unusual features, an elevator leading to a monument on the top
of Durie Hill.
Suburbs of the city include (clockwise from due south), Gonville,
Castlecliff, Springvale, St. Johns Hill, Aramoho, Wanganui East,
Bastia Hill, Durie Hill and Putiki. Of these, all except Wanganui
East, Bastia Hill, Durie Hill and Putiki are on the northwest
A considerable proportion of Wanganui's economy relates directly to
the fertile and prosperous farming area that surrounds the city.
Heads Road is Wanganui's main industrial area and s home to a
number of manufacturing and engineering operations. The Wanganui
Port, once the centre of industrial transport, still has some
traffic but is more noted for the world famous Q-West Boat
Builders, who operate from here.
Tourism is now becoming a major income stream for the district and
the local Council has undertaken a number of tourism initiatives.
Planning to relocate the local i-SITE Visitor Centre to a higher
profile and specialised building is currently underway as well as
the upgrading of a number of local landmarks (including the new
riverfront walkway). Council has also taken actions to raise the
profile of its main tourism wanganui.com website (
) as this has
been recognised as the leading source of information on Wanganui
for visitor information.
Wanganui District Council resulted from amalgamation of Wanganui
and Waitotara county councils and Wanganui City Council.The
district has an area of 2,373 km². Much of the land in 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 people in the Wanganui district live in the city
itself, meaning there are few prominent outlying settlements.
but notable village is Jerusalem.
Wanganui is one of the oldest rugby
unions in New Zealand, but has never held the Ranfurly Shield
. The Wanganui environs have
produced many All Blacks
Donald, Bill Osborne, Buff Milner, George Bullock-Douglas, Harrison
Rowley, John Blair, John Hogan, Moke Belliss, Mona Thomson, Pat
Potaka, Peina Taituha, Peter Johns, Peter McDonnell, Peter Murray,
Peter Henderson, Sandy McNicol, Glenn Osborne and Keith Gudsell who
also played three tests for the Wallabies
In 2008 the Wanganui representative rugby team under the captaincy
of David Gower, won the NZRFU's Heartland Championship (Meads Cup)
by defeating Mid Canterbury 27-12 in the final. They had previously
been the defeated finalist in 2006 and 2007. The 2008 side had an
undefeated season - the first since 1947. The rugby squad,
including coach and management, was accorded the honour of 'Freedom
of the City' by the Wanganui District Council - the first time the
award had been given to any sporting team.
The 2009 representative team repeated this feat by regaining the
Meads Cup - again defeating Mid Canterbury in the final by 34
points to 13 (after trailing nil-13 at halftime). Unlike 2008, the
2009 did lose games (to Wellington, Wairarapa Bush and Mid
Canterbury) but came good at the business end of the season. Ten
Wanganui players were selected for the Heartland XV. Mayor Michael
Laws is to reconfirm the Freedom of the City award at a civic
function in late November.
The Wanganui District Council decided in 2008 to formally end its
sister city relationship with Reno, Nevada, USA after years of
Instead it has looked to partner a Samoan village in the wake of
the 2009 tsunami tragedy.