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 is 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.
Wellington takes its name from Arthur Wellesley (1769–1852), the first Duke of Wellington and victor of the Battle of Waterloo (1815): his title comes from the town of Wellington in the English county of Somerset. It was named in November 1840 by the original settlers of the New Zealand Company on the suggestion of the directors of the same, in recognition of the Duke's strong support for the company's principles of colonisation and his "strenuous and successful defence against its enemies of the measure for colonising South Australia". One of the founders of the settlement, Edward Jerningham Wakefield, reported that the settlers "took up the views of the directors with great cordiality and the new name was at once adopted".
In Māori, Wellington has three names. Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara refers to Wellington Harbour and means "the great harbour of Tara"; Pōneke is a transliteration of Port Nick, short for Port Nicholson (the city's central marae, the community supporting it and its kapa haka have the pseudo-tribal name of Ngāti Pōneke); Te Upoko-o-te-Ika-a-Māui, meaning 'The Head of the Fish of Māui' (often shortened to Te Upoko-o-te-Ika), a traditional name for the southernmost part of the North Island, deriving from the legend of the fishing up of the island by the demi-god Māui.
In New Zealand Sign Language, the name is signed by raising the index, middle and ring fingers of one hand, palm forward, to form a "W", and shaking it slightly from side to side twice.
The city's location close to the mouth of the narrow Cook Strait leads to its vulnerability to strong gales, leading to the city's nickname of "Windy Wellington".
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.
In 1865, Wellington became the capital city in place of Auckland, which William Hobson had made the capital in 1841. The New Zealand Parliament had first met in Wellington on 7 July 1862, on a temporary basis; in November 1863, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Alfred Domett, placed 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 [region]." Apparently, there had been some concerns that the more populous South Island (where the goldfields were located) would choose to form a separate colony in the British Empire. Several Commissioners invited from Australia, chosen for their neutral status, declared that Wellington was a suitable location because of its central location in New Zealand and good harbour. Parliament officially met in Wellington for the first time on 26 July 1865. At that time, the population of Wellington was just 4,900. Wellington's status as capital is by constitutional convention rather than statute.
Wellington is the location of the highest court, the Supreme Court of New Zealand, and the historic former High Court building has been enlarged and restored for its use. Government House, the official residence of the Governor-General, is in Newtown, opposite the Basin Reserve. Premier House, the official residence of the Prime Minister, is in Thorndon on Tinakori Road.
Wellington is New Zealand's political centre, housing Parliament, the head offices of all Government Ministries and Departments and the bulk of the foreign diplomatic missions. It is an important centre of the film and theatre industry, and second to Auckland in terms of numbers of screen industry businesses. Te Papa Tongarewa (the Museum of New Zealand), the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Wellington Museum and the biennial New Zealand International Arts Festival are all sited there.
Wellington had the 12th best quality of living in the world in 2014, a ranking up from 13th place in 2012, according to a 2014 study by consulting company Mercer. Of cities in the Asia Pacific region, it ranked third (2014) behind Auckland and Sydney. It became much more affordable in terms of cost of living relative to cities worldwide, with its ranking moving from 93rd (more expensive) to 139th (less expensive) in 2009, probably as a result of currency fluctuations during the global economic downturn from March 2008 to March 2009. "Foreigners get more bang for their buck in Wellington, which is among the cheapest cities in the world to live", according to a 2009 article, which reported that currency fluctuations make New Zealand cities affordable for multinational firms to do business: "New Zealand cities were now more affordable for expatriates and were competitive places for overseas companies to develop business links and send employees". Lonely Planet named Wellington 'the coolest little capital in the world' in its 'Best in Travel 2011' guide book. It is home to Weta Workshop, associated with director Peter Jackson.
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".
Wellington's scenic natural harbour and green hillsides adorned with tiered suburbs of colonial villas are popular with tourists. The CBD is close to Lambton Harbour, an arm of Wellington Harbour, which lies along an active geological fault, clearly evident on its straight western shore. The land to the west of this rises abruptly, meaning that many suburbs sit high above the centre of the city. There is a network of bush walks and reserves maintained by the Wellington City Council and local volunteers. These include Otari-Wilton's Bush, dedicated to the protection and propagation of native plants. The Wellington region has 500 square kilometres (190 sq mi) of regional parks and forests. In the east is the Miramar Peninsula, connected to the rest of the city by a low-lying isthmus at Rongotai, the site of Wellington International Airport.
The narrow entrance to the harbour is to the east of the Miramar Peninsula, and contains the dangerous shallows of Barrett Reef, where many ships have been wrecked (notably the inter-island ferry TEV Wahine in 1968). The harbour has three islands: Matiu/Somes Island, Makaro/Ward Island and Mokopuna Island. Only Matiu/Somes Island is large enough for habitation. It has been used as a quarantine station for people and animals, and was an internment camp during World War I and World War II. It is a conservation island, providing refuge for endangered species, much like Kapiti Island farther up the coast. There is access during daylight hours by the Dominion Post Ferry.
Wellington is primarily surrounded by water, but some of the nearby locations are listed below.
The urban area stretches across the areas administered by the city councils of Wellington, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt and Porirua.
Steep landforms shape and constrain much of Wellington city. Notable hills in and around Wellington include:
Averaging 2,059 hours of sunshine per year, the climate of Wellington is temperate marine, (Köppen: Cfb ), generally moderate all year round, and rarely sees temperatures above 25 °C (77 °F) or below 4 °C (39 °F). The hottest recorded temperature is 31.1 °C (88 °F), while −1.1 °C (30 °F) is the coldest. The city is notorious for its southerly blasts in winter, which may make the temperature feel much colder. It is generally very windy all year round with high rainfall; average annual rainfall is 1,244 mm (49 in), June and July being the wettest months. Frosts are quite common in the hill suburbs and the Hutt Valley between May and September. Snow is very rare at low altitudes, although snow fell on the city and many other parts of the Wellington region during separate events in July and August 2011.
Wellington suffered serious damage in a series of earthquakes in 1848 and from another earthquake in 1855. The 1855 Wairarapa earthquake occurred on the Wairarapa Fault to the north and east of Wellington. It was probably the most powerful earthquake in recorded New Zealand history, with an estimated magnitude of at least 8.2 on the Moment magnitude scale. It caused vertical movements of two to three metres over a large area, including raising land out of the harbour and turning it into a tidal swamp. Much of this land was subsequently reclaimed and is now part of the central business district. For this reason, the street named Lambton Quay is 100 to 200 metres (325 to 650 ft) from the harbour – plaques set into the footpath mark the shoreline in 1840, indicating the extent of reclamation.
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 minor fault lines have been identified within the urban area. Inhabitants, particularly in high-rise buildings, typically notice several earthquakes every year. For many years after the 1855 earthquake, the majority of buildings were made entirely from wood. The 1996-restored Government Buildings near Parliament is the largest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere. While masonry and structural steel have subsequently been used in building construction, especially for office buildings, timber framing remains the primary structural component of almost all residential construction. Residents place their confidence in good building regulations, which became more stringent in the 20th century.
Since the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, earthquake readiness has become even more of an issue, with buildings declared by Wellington City Council to be earthquake-prone, and the costs of meeting new standards.
Every five years a year-long slow quake occurs beneath Wellington, stretching from Kapiti to the Marlborough Sounds. It was first measured in 2003, and reappeared in 2008 and 2013. It releases as much energy as a magnitude 7 quake, but as it happens slowly there is no damage.
During July and August 2013 there were many earthquakes, mostly in Cook Strait near Seddon. The sequence started at 5:09 pm on Sunday 21 July 2013 when the magnitude 6.5 Seddon earthquake hit the city, but no tsunami report was confirmed nor any major damage. At 2:31 pm on Friday 16 August 2013 the Lake Grassmere earthquake struck, this time magnitude 6.6, but again no major damage occurred, though many buildings were evacuated.
On Monday 20 January 2014 at 3:52 pm a rolling 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck the lower North Island 15 km east of Eketahuna and was felt in Wellington, but little damage was reported initially, except at Wellington Airport where one of the two giant eagle sculptures commemorating The Hobbit became detached from the ceiling.
At two minutes after midnight on the morning of Monday 14 November 2016, a 7.8 earthquake centred between Culverden and Kaikoura in the South Island caused most of Wellington CBD, Victoria University of Wellington, and the Wellington suburban rail network to be largely closed for the day to allow inspections. The earthquake caused damage to a small number of buildings.
The four cities comprising Wellington have a total population of 416,700 (June 2017), with the urban area containing 99.0% of that population. The remaining areas are largely mountainous and sparsely farmed or parkland and are outside the urban area boundary. More than most cities, life is dominated by its central business district (CBD). Approximately 62,000 people work in the CBD, only 4,000 fewer than work in Auckland's CBD, despite that city having four times the population.
Counts from the 2013 census gave totals by area, gender, and age. Wellington City had the largest population of the four cities with 190,956 people, followed by Lower Hutt, Porirua and Upper Hutt. Women outnumbered men in all four areas.
Source: Statistics New Zealand (2013 Census)
An increasing number of Wellingtonians profess no religious belief, with the most recent census in 2013 showing 44% in that category. The largest religious group was Christians at 39%. The latter figure represented a significant decline from seven years earlier at the previous census, when over 50% of the population identified as Christian.
At the 2013 Census, just over 27% of Wellington's population was born overseas. The most common overseas birthplace is the United Kingdom, place of origin of 7.1% of the urban area's population. The next most-common countries of origin were Samoa (2.0%), India (1.8%), China (1.7%), Australia (1.6%), the Philippines (1.2%), South Africa (1.1%), Fiji (1.0%), the United States (0.8%) and Malaysia (0.6%).
Age distributions for the four cities are given (see table below). The age structure closely matches the national distribution. The relative lack of older people in Wellington is less marked when Kapiti Coast District is included – nearly 7% of Kapiti Coast residents are over 80.
Source: Statistics New Zealand (2013 Census)
Wellington showcases a variety of architectural styles from the past 150 years – 19th-century wooden cottages, such as the Italianate Katherine Mansfield Birthplace in Thorndon; streamlined Art Deco structures such as the old Wellington Free Ambulance headquarters, the Central Fire Station, Fountain Court Apartments, the City Gallery, and the former Post and Telegraph Building; and the curves and vibrant colours of post-modern architecture in the CBD.
The oldest building is the 1858 Colonial Cottage in Mount Cook. The tallest building is the Majestic Centre on Willis Street at 116 metres high, the second tallest being the structural expressionist State Insurance Building at 103 metres. For a full list see: List of tallest buildings in Wellington. Futuna Chapel in Karori was the first bicultural building in New Zealand, and is considered one of the most significant New Zealand buildings of the 20th century.
Old St Paul's is an example of 19th-century Gothic Revival architecture adapted to colonial conditions and materials, as is St Mary of the Angels. Sacred Heart Cathedral is a Palladian Revival Basilica with the Portico of a Roman or Greek temple. The Museum of Wellington City & Sea in the Bond Store is in the Second French Empire style, and the Wellington Harbour Board Wharf Office Building is in a late English Classical style. There are several restored theatre buildings: the St James Theatre, the Opera House and the Embassy Theatre.
Civic Square is surrounded by the Town Hall and council offices, the Michael Fowler Centre, the Wellington Central Library, Capital E (home of the National Theatre for Children), the City-to-Sea Bridge, and the City Gallery.
As it is the capital city, there are many notable government buildings. The Executive Wing of New Zealand Parliament Buildings, on the corner of Lambton Quay and Molesworth Street, was constructed between 1969 and 1981 and is commonly referred to as the Beehive. Across the road is the largest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere, part of the old Government Buildings which now houses part of Victoria University of Wellington's Law Faculty.
A modernist building housing the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa lies on the waterfront, on Cable Street. It is strengthened using base isolation – essentially seating the entire building on supports made from lead, steel and rubber that slow down the effect of an earthquake.
Other notable buildings include Wellington Town Hall, Wellington Railway Station, Dominion Museum (now Massey University), State Insurance Building, Westpac Stadium, and Wellington Airport at Rongotai. Leading architects include Frederick Thatcher, Frederick de Jersey Clere, W. Gray Young, Bill Alington, Ian Athfield, Roger Walker and Pynenburg and Collins.
Wellington contains many iconic sculptures and structures, such as the Bucket Fountain in Cuba Street and Invisible City by Anton Parsons on Lambton Quay. Kinetic sculptures have been commissioned, such as the Zephyrometer. This 26-metre orange spike built for movement by artist Phil Price has been described as "tall, soaring and elegantly simple", which "reflects the swaying of the yacht masts in the Evans Bay Marina behind it" and "moves like the needle on the dial of a nautical instrument, measuring the speed of the sea or wind or vessel."
Wellington experienced a real estate boom in the early 2000s and the effects of the international property bust at the start of 2007. In 2005, the market was described as "robust". By 2008, property values had declined by about 9.3% over a 12-month period, according to one estimate. More expensive properties declined more steeply, sometimes by as much as 20%. "From 2004 to early 2007, rental yields were eroded and positive cash flow property investments disappeared as house values climbed faster than rents. Then that trend reversed and yields slowly began improving," according to two The New Zealand Herald reporters writing in May 2009. In the middle of 2009 house prices had dropped, interest rates were low, and buy-to-let property investment was again looking attractive, particularly in the Lambton precinct, according to these two reporters.
A Wellington City Council survey conducted in March 2009 found the typical central city apartment dweller was a New Zealand native aged 24 to 35 with a professional job in the downtown area, with household income higher than surrounding areas. Three-quarters (73%) walked to work or university, 13% travelled by car, 6% by bus, 2% bicycled (although 31% own bicycles), and did not travel very far since 73% worked or studied in the central city. The large majority (88%) did not have children in their apartments; 39% were couples without children; 32% were single-person households; 15% were groups of people flatting together. Most (56%) owned their apartment; 42% rented (of renters, 16% paid NZ$351 to NZ$450 per week, 13% paid less and 15% paid more – only 3% paid more than NZ$651 per week). The report continued: "The four most important reasons for living in an apartment were given as lifestyle and city living (23%), close to work (20%), close to shops and cafes (11%) and low maintenance (11%)... City noise and noise from neighbours were the main turnoffs for apartment dwellers (27%), followed by a lack of outdoor space (17%), living close to neighbours (9%) and apartment size and a lack of storage space (8%)."
Households are primarily one-family, making up 66.9% of households, followed by single-person households (24.7%); there were fewer multiperson households and even fewer households containing two or more families. These counts are from the 2013 census for the Wellington region (which includes the surrounding area in addition to the four cities).
Wellington in September 2016 overtook Auckland as the area with the fastest-rising house prices in the NZ.
Wellington Harbour ranks as one of New Zealand's chief seaports and serves both domestic and international shipping. The port handles approximately 10.5 million tonnes of cargo on an annual basis, importing petroleum products, motor vehicles, minerals and exporting meats, wood products, dairy products, wool, and fruit. Many cruise ships also use the port.
The Government sector has long been a mainstay of the economy, which has typically risen and fallen with it. Traditionally, its central location meant it was the location of many head offices of various sectors – particularly finance, technology and heavy industry – many of which have since relocated to Auckland following economic deregulation and privatisation.
In recent years, tourism, arts and culture, film, and ICT have played a bigger role in the economy. Wellington's median income is well above the average in New Zealand, and the highest of all New Zealand cities. It has a much higher proportion of people with tertiary qualifications than the national average. Major companies with their headquarters in Wellington include:
At the 2013 census, the largest employment industries for Wellington residents were professional, scientific and technical services (25,836 people), public administration and safety (24,336 people), health care and social assistance (17,446 people), education and training (16,550 people) and retail trade (16,203 people).
Tourism is a major contributor to the city's economy, injecting approximately NZ$1.3 billion into the region annually and accounting for 9% of total FTE employment. The city is consistently named as New Zealanders' favourite destination in the quarterly FlyBuys Colmar Brunton Mood of the Traveller survey and it was ranked fourth in Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2011's Top 10 Cities to Visit in 2011. New Zealanders make up the largest visitor market, with 3.6 million visits each year; New Zealand visitors spend on average NZ$2.4 million a day. There are approximately 540,000 international visitors each year, who spend 3.7 million nights and NZ$436 million. The largest international visitor market is Australia, with over 210,000 visitors spending approximately NZ$334 million annually.
Wellington is marketed as the 'coolest little capital in the world' by Positively Wellington Tourism, an award-winning regional tourism organisation set up as a council controlled organisation by Wellington City Council in 1997. The organisation's council funding comes through the Downtown Levy commercial rate. In the decade to 2010, the city saw growth of over 60% in commercial guest nights. It has been promoted through a variety of campaigns and taglines, starting with the iconic Absolutely Positively Wellington advertisements. The long-term domestic marketing strategy was a finalist in the 2011 CAANZ Media Awards.
Popular tourist attractions include Wellington Museum, Wellington Zoo, Zealandia and Wellington Cable Car. Cruise tourism is experiencing a major boom in line with nationwide development. The 2010/11 season saw 125,000 passengers and crew visit on 60 liners. There were 80 vessels booked for visits in the 2011/12 season – estimated to inject more than NZ$31 million into the economy and representing a 74% increase in the space of two years.
Wellington is a popular conference tourism destination due to its compact nature, cultural attractions, award-winning restaurants and access to government agencies. In the year ending March 2011, there were 6495 conference events involving nearly 800,000 delegate days; this injected approximately NZ$100 million into the economy.
Wellington is home to Te Papa (the Museum of New Zealand), The Great War Exhibition, the National Library of New Zealand, Archives New Zealand, Wellington Museum, the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Museum, Colonial Cottage, the New Zealand Cricket Museum, the Cable Car Museum, the Reserve Bank Museum, Old St Paul's, and the Wellington City Art Gallery.
Wellington is home to many high-profile events and cultural celebrations, including the biennial New Zealand International Arts Festival, biennial Wellington Jazz Festival, biennial Capital E National Arts Festival for Children and major events such as Brancott Estate World of Wearable Art, TEDxWellington, Cuba Street Carnival, Visa Wellington on a Plate, New Zealand Fringe Festival, New Zealand International Comedy Festival (also hosted in Auckland), Summer City, The Wellington Folk Festival (in Wainuiomata), New Zealand Affordable Art Show, the New Zealand Sevens Weekend and Parade, Out In The Square, Vodafone Homegrown, the Couch Soup theatre festival, Camp A Low Hum and numerous film festivals.
The annual children's Artsplash Festival brings together hundreds of students from across the region. The week-long festival includes music and dance performances and the presentation of visual arts.
Filmmakers Sir Peter Jackson, Sir Richard Taylor and a growing team of creative professionals have turned the eastern suburb of Miramar into a film-making, post-production and special effects infrastructure centre, giving rise to the moniker 'Wellywood'. Jackson's companies include Weta Workshop, Weta Digital, Camperdown Studios, post-production house Park Road Post, and Stone Street Studios near Wellington Airport. Recent films shot partly or wholly in Wellington include the Lord of The Rings trilogy, King Kong and Avatar. Jackson described Wellington: "Well, it's windy. But it's actually a lovely place, where you're pretty much surrounded by water and the bay. The city itself is quite small, but the surrounding areas are very reminiscent of the hills up in northern California, like Marin County near San Francisco and the Bay Area climate and some of the architecture. Kind of a cross between that and Hawaii."
Sometime Wellington directors Jane Campion and Geoff Murphy have reached the world's screens with their independent spirit. Emerging Kiwi film-makers, like Robert Sarkies, Taika Waititi, Costa Botes and Jennifer Bush-Daumec, are extending the Wellington-based lineage and cinematic scope. There are agencies to assist film-makers with tasks such as securing permits and scouting locations.
Wellington has a large number of independent cinemas, including The Embassy, Paramount, Penthouse, the Roxy and Light House, which participate in film festivals throughout the year. Wellington has one of the country's highest turn-outs for the annual New Zealand International Film Festival.
The music scene has produced bands such as The Warratahs, The Mockers, The Phoenix Foundation, Shihad, Beastwars, Fly My Pretties, Rhian Sheehan, Birchville Cat Motel, Black Boned Angel, Fat Freddy's Drop, The Black Seeds, Fur Patrol, Flight of the Conchords, Connan Mockasin, Rhombus and Module, Weta, Demoniac. The New Zealand School of Music was established in 2005 through a merger of the conservatory and theory programmes at Massey University and Victoria University of Wellington. New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Nevine String Quartet and Chamber music New Zealand are based in Wellington. The city is also home to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Rodger Fox Big Band and the Internationally renowned men's A Cappella chorus Vocal FX.
Wellington is home to BATS Theatre, Circa Theatre, the National Maori Theatre company Taki Rua, Whitireia Performance Centre, National Dance & Drama School Toi Whakaari and the National Theatre for Children at Capital E in Civic Square. St James' Theatre on Courtenay Place is a popular venue for artistic performances.
Wellington is home to groups that perform Improvised Theatre and Improvisational comedy, including Wellington Improvisation Troupe (WIT) an Improvisors and youth group, Joe Improv. Te Whaea National Dance & Drama Centre, houses New Zealand's University-level school of Dance and Drama, Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School & New Zealand School of Dance, and Whitireia Performing Arts Centre. These are separate entities that share the building's facilities.
Wellington is the home for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, the New Zealand School of Dance and contemporary dance company Footnote.
Many of New Zealand's prominent comedians have either come from Wellington or got their start there, such as Ginette McDonald ("Lyn of Tawa"), Raybon Kan, Dai Henwood, Ben Hurley, Steve Wrigley, Guy Williams, the Flight of the Conchords and the satirist John Clarke ("Fred Dagg").
The comedy group Breaking the 5th Wall operated out of Wellington and regularly did shows around the city, performing a mix of sketch comedy and semi-improvised theatre. In 2012 the group disbanded when some of its members moved to Australia.
Wellington is home to groups that perform improvised theatre and improvisational comedy, including Wellington Improvisation Troupe (WIT), The Improvisors and youth group Joe Improv.
Wellington hosts shows in the annual New Zealand International Comedy Festival. The NZ International Comedy Fest 2010 featured over 250 local and international comedy acts and was a first in incorporating an iPhone application for the Festival.
From 1936 to 1992 Wellington was home to the National Art Gallery of New Zealand, when it was amalgamated into Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Wellington is home to the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts and the Arts Foundation of New Zealand. The city's arts centre, Toi Poneke, is a nexus of creative projects, collaborations, and multi-disciplinary production. Arts Programmes and Services Manager Eric Vaughn Holowacz and a small team based in the Abel Smith Street facility have produced ambitious initiatives such as Opening Notes, Drive by Art, and public art projects. The city is home to experimental arts publication White Fungus. The Learning Connexion provides art classes. Other visual art galleries include the City Gallery.
Wellington is characterised by small dining establishments and independent coffeehouses, and the city is noted for its "café culture". The city's restaurants are either licensed to sell alcohol, BYO (bring your own), or unlicensed. Restaurants offer cuisines including from Europe, Asia and Polynesia; for dishes that have a distinctly New Zealand style, there are lamb, pork and cervena (venison), salmon, crayfish (lobster), Bluff oysters, pāua (abalone), mussels, scallops, pipis and tuatua (both New Zealand shellfish); kumara (sweet potato); kiwifruit and tamarillo; and pavlova, the national dessert.
Wellington is the home to:
Sporting events include:
Wellington offers a variety of college and university programs for tertiary students:
Victoria University of Wellington has four campuses and works with a three-trimester system (beginning March, July, and November). It enrolled 21,380 students in 2008; of these, 16,609 were full-time students. Of all students, 56% were female and 44% male. While the student body was primarily New Zealanders of European descent, 1,713 were Maori, 1,024 were Pacific students, 2,765 were international students. 5,751 degrees, diplomas and certificates were awarded. The university has 1,930 full-time employees.
Massey University has a Wellington campus known as the "creative campus" and offers courses in communication and business, engineering and technology, health and well-being, and creative arts. Its school of design was established in 1886 and has research centres for studying public health, sleep, Maori health, small & medium enterprises, disasters, and tertiary teaching excellence. It combined with Victoria University to create the New Zealand School of Music.
The University of Otago has a Wellington branch with its Wellington School of Medicine and Health.
Whitireia New Zealand has large campuses in Porirua, Wellington and Kapiti; the Wellington Institute of Technology and New Zealand's National Drama school, Toi Whakaari. For further information, see List of universities in New Zealand. The Wellington area has numerous primary and secondary schools.
Wellington is served by State Highway 1 in the west and State Highway 2 in the east, meeting at the Ngauranga Interchange north of the city centre, where SH 1 runs through the city to the airport. Road access into the capital is constrained by the mountainous terrain – between Wellington and the Kapiti Coast, SH 1 travels along the Centennial Highway, a narrow section of road, and between Wellington and Wairarapa SH 2 transverses the Rimutaka Ranges on a similar narrow winding road. Wellington has two motorways, both part of SH 1: the Johnsonville–Porirua Motorway and the Wellington Urban Motorway, which in combination with a small non-motorway section in the Ngauranga Gorge connect Porirua with Wellington city.
Bus transport in Wellington is supplied by several different operators under the banner of Metlink. Buses serve almost every part of Wellington city, with most of them running along the "Golden Mile" from Wellington Railway Station to Courtenay Place. Most of the buses run on diesel, but nine routes use trolleybuses – the only remaining public system in Oceania.
Wellington lies at the southern end of the North Island Main Trunk railway (NIMT) and the Wairarapa Line, converging on Wellington Railway Station at the northern end of central Wellington. Two long-distance services leave from Wellington: the Capital Connection, for commuters from Palmerston North, and the Northern Explorer to Auckland.
Four electrified suburban lines radiate from Wellington Railway Station to the outer suburbs – the Johnsonville Line through the hillside suburbs north of central Wellington; the Kapiti Line along the NIMT to Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast via Porirua and Paraparaumu; the Melling Line to Lower Hutt via Petone; and the Hutt Valley Line along the Wairarapa Line via Waterloo and Taita to Upper Hutt. A diesel-hauled carriage service, the Wairarapa Connection, connects several times daily to Masterton in the Wairarapa via the 8.8-kilometre-long (5.5 mi) Rimutaka Tunnel. Combined, these five services carry 11.64 million passengers per year.
Wellington is the North Island port for Cook Strait ferries to Picton in the South Island, provided by state-owned Interislander and private Bluebridge. Local ferries connect Wellington city centre with Eastbourne, Seatoun and Petone.
Wellington International Airport is 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) south-east of the city centre. It is serviced by flights from across New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Fiji. Flights to other international destinations require a transfer at another airport, as larger aircraft cannot use Wellington's short (2,081-metre or 6,827-foot) runway, which has become an issue in recent years in regards to the Wellington region's economic performance.
The maximum electricity demand is forecast to grow on average by 1.4% annually over the next 15 years, from 756 MW in 2012 to 934 MW by 2027, slightly lower than the national average demand growth of 1.7% per annum. The largest source of generation in the region is Meridian Energy's West Wind wind farm, with a maximum output of 143 MW. It is a few kilometres west of Wellington's central business district, on Quartz Hill and Terawhiti Station. There are some other small generators in the region, but the total peak generation is only 165 MW.
Peak demand greatly exceeds local generation, and power supply is highly dependent on the National Grid operated by Transpower. Four 220 kV transmission circuits from Bunnythorpe, near Palmerston North, provide the main connections with the national grid. The region is also supplied by the North Island terminal of the HVDC link at Haywards substation, on State Highway 58 above the Hutt Valley. A major upgrade of the HVDC link commissioned in 2013 increased the capacity of the link from 700 MW to 1,000 MW from 2012, and 1,200 MW from 2014.
The local power distribution network is owned and managed by Wellington Electricity. The main power supplies to the central business district come from Transpower grid exit point substations at Central Park and Wilton. The Central Park substation is the largest grid exit point in the region, with a peak demand of over 170 MW (forecast to grow to 200 MW by 2020). There are constraints and limitations with this substation, and alternative investment solutions are being developed to improve security of supply.
Strong winds, advantageous for wind farms, have been known to damage power lines. In May 2009, one windstorm left about 2500 residents without power for several hours. Lightning strikes and occasional faults in the electric power system sometimes cause power outages.
Wellington and the Hutt Valley were two of the original nine towns and cities in New Zealand to be supplied with natural gas when the Kapuni gas field entered production in 1970, and a 260-kilometre-long (160 mi) high-pressure pipeline from the field in Taranaki to the city was completed. The high-pressure transmission pipelines supplying Wellington are now owned and operated by First Gas, with Powerco owning and operating the medium- and low-pressure distribution pipelines within the urban area.
Wellington's first piped water supply came from a spring in 1867. Greater Wellington Regional Council now supplies Lower Hutt, Porirua, Upper Hutt and Wellington with up to 220 million litres a day. The water comes from Wainuiomata River (since 1884), Hutt River (1914), Orongorongo River (1926) and the Lower Hutt aquifer.