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Waihōpai  (Māori)
Spring in 2005, Esk Street, Invercargill
Spring in 2005, Esk Street, Invercargill
Coat of arms of Invercargill
Coat of arms
Pro Communi Utilitate
English: For the Benefit of the Community
Invercargill City's location within the South Island
Invercargill City's location within the South Island
Country New Zealand
Island South Island
Region Southland
Communities Bluff
Settled by Europeans 1853
Named for InbhirScottish Gaelic for river's mouth and William Cargill
 • Territorial 389.88 km2 (150.53 sq mi)
 • Urban
60.70 km2 (23.44 sq mi)
 (June 2023)
 • Territorial 57,900
 • Density 148.51/km2 (384.6/sq mi)
 • Urban
 • Urban density 840/km2 (2,176/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Invercargillite
Time zone UTC+12 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+13 (NZDT)
9810, 9812
Area code(s) 03
Local iwi Ngāi Tahu

Invercargill ( IN-vər-KAR-ghil, Māori: [Waihōpai] Error: {{Lang}}: text has italic markup (help)) is the southernmost and westernmost city in New Zealand, and one of the southernmost cities in the world. It is the commercial centre of the Southland region. The city lies in the heart of the wide expanse of the Southland Plains on the Oreti or New River some 18 km (11 miles) north of Bluff, which is the southernmost town in the South Island. It sits amid rich farmland that is bordered by large areas of conservation land and marine reserves, including Fiordland National Park covering the south-west corner of the South Island and the Catlins coastal region.

Many streets in the city, especially in the centre and main shopping district, are named after rivers in Scotland. These include the main streets Dee and Tay, as well as those named after the Tweed, Forth, Tyne, Esk, Don, Ness, Yarrow, Spey and Eye rivers.

The 2018 census showed the population was 54,204, up 2.7% on the 2006 census number and up 4.8% on the 2013 census number.


Civic Theatre in Invercargill, New Zealand
Civic Theatre, the town hall of Invercargill – built in 1906.

Southland was a scene of early extended contact between Europeans and Maori, notably whalers and missionaries – Wohlers at Ruapuke. In 1853, Walter Mantell purchased Murihiku from local Maori iwi, claiming the land for European settlement. Otago, of which Southland was itself part, was the subject of planned settlement by the Free Church, an offshoot of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Settlement broadened with the discovery of gold in Central Otago in the 1860s. Today, traces of Scottish speech persist in Southland voices, with R often pronounced with a rolling burr. This is more noticeable among country people.

In 1856, a petition was put forward to Thomas Gore Browne, the Governor of New Zealand, for a port at Bluff. Due to the Otago gold rush, the region's population grew during the 1860s with the settlement of Bluff. Browne agreed to the petition and gave the name Invercargill to the settlement north of the port. Inver comes from the Scottish Gaelic word inbhir meaning a river's mouth and Cargill is in honour of Captain William Cargill, who was at the time the Superintendent of Otago, of which Southland was then a part. The settlement's chief surveyor was John Turnbull Thomson, a British civil engineer.

Under the influence of James Menzies, Southland Province (a small part of the present Region, centred on Invercargill) seceded from Otago in 1861 following the escalation of political tensions. However, rising debt forced Southland to rejoin Otago in 1870 and the provincial system, and with it the province of Otago, was abolished entirely in 1876. This debt was caused by a population decline stemming from poor returns from pastoral farming. In 1874, Invercargill's population was less than 2,500 which reflected the drift north to large centres. In the 1880s, the development of an export industry based on butter and cheese encouraged the growth of dairy farming in Southland. In December 1905, Invercargill voted in local prohibition of alcohol sales. This lasted for 40 years until voted out by returning servicemen in the Second World War. Drinking continued meanwhile, thanks to hotels and liquor merchants in outlying districts, huge volumes of beer, often in kegs, brought to private homes, or sold by the glass by keggers at hiding spots round the City. When prohibition ended, a committee of citizens persuaded the Government to give the monopoly on liquor sales in Invercargill to the specially formed Invercargill Licensing Trust. Based on a scheme in Carlisle, England, it returns profits to city amenities. Even today, alcohol is not sold in supermarkets.

In recent years, publicity has been brought to the southern city by the election of Tim Shadbolt, a colourful and outspoken former student activist and former mayor of Waitemata City, as mayor. He once appeared on a cheese advertisement stating "I don't mind where, as long as I'm Mayor". His supporters like the colour he brings to the city. His opponents refer to his controversial mayoral career in the Auckland suburbs and to his attitude to veterans during his opposition to the Vietnam War. Publicity and students have also come to the city by the Southern Institute of Technology's "Zero Fees" scheme, which allows New Zealand citizens and permanent residents to study while only paying for material costs of their study, and not tuition fees.


ISS Invercargill
Invercargill pictured from the International Space Station

Invercargill is the southernmost city in the Commonwealth of Nations. Invercargill is situated on the fertile and alluvial Southland Plains, which is amongst some of New Zealand's most fertile farmland. Southern Invercargill lies on the shore of the New River Estuary, while the northern parts lie on the banks of the Waihopai River. 10 kilometres west of the city centre lies Oreti Beach, a long expanse of sand stretching from the Sandy Point area to nearby Riverton.


Invercargill has a temperate oceanic climate. The mean daily temperature ranges from 5.2 °C (41.4 °F) in July to 14 °C (57 °F) in January. The yearly mean temperature is 9.8 °C (49.6 °F). Rainfall averages 1,112 millimetres (43.8 in) annually, and measurable snowfall is occasionally seen during the winter months of June to September. It is the cloudiest city in New Zealand with only 1,580 hours of sunshine per annum. Despite its cloudiness, and a relatively high frequency of rainy days, Invercargill receives less rain than either Auckland or Wellington. Invercargill is also New Zealand's second windiest city, after Wellington.

The average temperature high ranges from 18.7 °C (65.7 °F) in January to 9.5 °C (49.1 °F) in July, but temperatures do occasionally exceed 25 °C (77 °F) in summer with a recorded extreme of 32.2 °C (90.0 °F). Owing to its relatively high latitude (46° 42′), the city enjoys nearly 16 hours of daylight at the summer solstice in late December. Conversely, the city receives only around 8 hours of daylight at the winter solstice in late June.

Invercargill is the "City of Water and Light". The "light" refers to the long summer twilights and the aurora australis (southern lights). The "water" reference, humorists suggest, comes from notorious horizontal, driving rain in high wind at the corner of the two main streets, Dee and Tay. A recent sign also states "Invercargill, where dreams can come true" with an image from the 2005 film The World's Fastest Indian.

In September 2010, Invercargill's heaviest snowfall in living memory heralded a run of unseasonably cold weather. A few buildings were damaged, notably Stadium Southland, the roof of which collapsed under the weight of the snow; and a decorating store. Many other stores were shut, and Invercargill Airport was closed for a day.

Climate data for Invercargill (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 31.6
Average high °C (°F) 18.7
Daily mean °C (°F) 14.2
Average low °C (°F) 9.6
Record low °C (°F) −0.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 115.0
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 13.0 10.3 12.3 12.3 15.3 15.6 14.2 12.8 13.1 13.8 13.3 14.3 160.4
Average relative humidity (%) 80.6 83.3 84.2 85.3 87.0 87.7 88.1 85.8 81.3 80.0 78.2 78.6 83.3
Mean monthly sunshine hours 185.9 167.2 142.6 117.2 87.5 78.7 97.9 123.0 139.8 173.0 181.3 188.2 1,682.2
Source 1: NIWA Climate Data
Source 2: Météo Climat
Panorama of Invercargill from the city's historic watertower. Queen's Park can be seen toward the right of the image.



Invercargill is the southernmost city on New Zealand's state highway network and is linked to Fiordland and the Catlins by the Southern Scenic Route and Dunedin and Gore by SH 1. It is also the southern end of SH 6 coming from Queenstown and the West Coast. The main streets of Invercargill: Dee (SH 6) and Tay (SH 1) measure over 40 metres wide. Numerous roads in the city are dual-carriageway but there are no expressways/motorways proposed for the city.

Rail links

The square outside the Invercargill Railway Station, 1925 ATLIB 315033
The square outside Invercargill Railway Station circa 1925

Invercargill was the first town in New Zealand to have a steam locomotive and was once the centre of a much larger rail network than at present. It is at the southern end of the Main South Line railway, which extends up the east coast to Christchurch and Lyttelton via Dunedin. Until the cancellation of The Southerner in 2002, Invercargill had the southernmost passenger railway station in the world. Passenger trains no longer call at Invercargill, except for occasional excursions. The Bluff Branch extends south from Invercargill and has been freight-only since 1967. The Wairio Branch extends northwest from Invercargill to the Solid Energy coalfields near Ohai and continues to carry freight even after the closing of the Ohai coal mine.


During the mid-1950s, Invercargill Airport was used for fuel top-up and final take off by Operation Deep Freeze. Twin-engine propeller-driven aircraft destined for McMurdo Sound in the Antarctic used the airport, assisted in takeoff by JATO rockets. Larger aircraft flew from Christchurch when a permanent Deep Freeze base was established there.

Air New Zealand operates daily flights to Christchurch and to Wellington plus five weekly flights to Auckland. Stewart Island Flights make regular flights to and from Stewart Island / Rakiura. Mount Cook Airline and Air Nelson, wholly owned subsidiaries of Air New Zealand, also operate out of the airport flying ATR 72s and Bombardier Dash 8s. Mainland Air of Dunedin operates a Piper Navajo and is contracted to fly doctors to Southland Hospital several times per week from Dunedin Hospital.

Southern Wings is the only aeroclub based at the airport and runs charter flights as well as a flight school.

Invercargill Airport has the fourth longest runway in New Zealand at 2210 metres, after Auckland, Christchurch and Ohakea.


The "Invercargill March" is an internationally famous tune was written by Alex Lithgow who attended Invercargill Grammar School (now Middle School). In his book Invercargill – 150 Years, Lloyd Esler's opening sentence reads, "Invercargill was done a fine favour by Alex Lithgow who named his famous march after his boyhood home. The Invercargill March is possibly the best advertisement the town has ever had as the work is a brass-band favourite and the word 'Invercargill' is whispered amongst audiences worldwide. There is only one Invercargill in the world – this one".

When Invercargill hosted the national brass band contest in 1909, Alex's brother Tom asked for a test piece for the contest and Alex offered this piece to the city. On the music he wrote,

"To Invercargill, the Southernmost City in New Zealand (End of the World), and its Citizens, I dedicate this March as a memento of the many pleasant years spent there in my boyhood."

—Alex Lithgow


  • Appleby
  • Ascot
  • Avenal
  • Clifton
  • Georgetown
  • Gladstone
  • Glengarry
  • Grasmere
  • Hawthorndale
  • Heidelberg
  • Kew
  • Kildare
  • Kingswell
  • Newfield
  • Otatara
  • Prestonville
  • Richmond
  • Rosedale
  • Strathern
  • Thomson Park
  • Waikiwi
  • Waverley
  • Windsor
  • West Invercargill
  • Woodend

Sister cities


Invercargill is home to the Southern Institute of Technology, which has introduced a zero-fees scheme. The scheme was partly responsible for rejuvenating the city when it was in a steady state of population decline. However the major factor in Invercargill's regrowth is the dairy industrial boom of the 2000s (decade) due to an increased demand for New Zealand milk, cheese and butter. New dairy factories have opened around the Southland Region, as well as more efficient meat processing works and research and development facilities.

Invercargill is on the Southern Scenic Route (tourist road), allowing day trips to Queenstown, Stewart Island / Rakiura, Dunedin, Te Anau and Fiordland.

Liquor licensing trusts

The Invercargill Licensing Trust is one of several trusts in the city of Invercargill. The Invercargill Licensing Trust and the ILT Foundation are major funders of community projects in Invercargill. The ILT Foundation provides donations and grants totalling around $10 million a year to over 500 organisations. The trust has also been influential in the development of city facilities such as the ILT Stadium Southland and Invercargill Velodrome. The trust are also big-time backers of local sporting franchises the Southern Steel, Southland Sharks and Southland Stags.

The Community Trust of Southland was established after Westpac bought out the Trust Bank Southland in the late 1990s. It was sold for approximately $150 million, with those funds now being set aside for the people of the Southland regions, including Queenstown, Arrowtown and Tapanui. It is widely recognised as one of New Zealand's leading community trusts, with the benefit of a large capital base for a relatively small population. Consequently, the Trust provides significant funding to a wide range of projects and programmes. Each year, it distributes between $7 and $10 million in the region, not including the large sums given to sports franchises and building projects and since its inception has distributed close to $140 million in grants.


Invercargill was home to Invercargill Brewery, the southernmost manufacturer of beer in New Zealand. Established in 1999, it was an internationally award-winning production brewery which also contract brews for other iconic New Zealand breweries, including Yeastie Boys. The company went into receivership in 2018.


Invercargill has a growing tourism sector. Attractions such as E Hayes, Bill Richardson Transport World, Dig This and Classic Motorcycle Mecca attract people to the area.


The Invercargill City territorial authority covers 389.88 km2 (150.53 sq mi) and had an estimated population of 57,900 as of June 2023, with a population density of 149 people per km2. This comprises 51,000 people in the Invercargill urban area, 1,840 people in the Bluff urban area, and 5060 people in the surrounding settlements and rural area.

Historical population
Year Pop. ±% p.a.
2006 50,325 —    
2013 51,696 +0.38%
2018 54,204 +0.95%

Invercargill City had a population of 54,204 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 2,508 people (4.9%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 3,879 people (7.7%) since the 2006 census. There were 21,585 households. There were 26,517 males and 27,687 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.96 males per female. The median age was 39.4 years (compared with 37.4 years nationally), with 10,560 people (19.5%) aged under 15 years, 10,053 (18.5%) aged 15 to 29, 24,249 (44.7%) aged 30 to 64, and 9,345 (17.2%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 85.0% European/Pākehā, 17.4% Māori, 3.8% Pacific peoples, 5.7% Asian, and 2.0% other ethnicities. People may identify with more than one ethnicity.

The percentage of people born overseas was 12.2, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 51.0% had no religion, 37.5% were Christian, 0.8% were Hindu, 0.4% were Muslim, 0.5% were Buddhist and 2.2% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 6,633 (15.2%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 11,145 (25.5%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $29,900, compared with $31,800 nationally. 5,991 people (13.7%) earned over $70,000 compared to 17.2% nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 21,885 (50.1%) people were employed full-time, 6,561 (15.0%) were part-time, and 1,650 (3.8%) were unemployed.


Rugby Park Invercargill
Rugby Park Stadium

The Southern Sting (Netball- Now Southern Steel) won seven National titles from 1999–2004, 2007, while the local rugby team the Southland Stags held the Ranfurly Shield from 22 October 2009 to 9 October 2010 and have made the NPC Semi-finals for the past three years. Southland also has one of the highest percentages of sports participants in the country, with codes such as rugby union, netball, basketball, cricket, and hockey being popular. Many professional sportsmen too, have come out of Southland as well. Invercargill also has some high quality sporting facilities, including an indoor velodrome, an Olympic sized swimming centre, a 20,000 capacity rugby stadium and also international playing arenas for both hockey and cricket. The city's 4500 capacity indoor stadium was severely damaged in 2010, its roof collapsing following a heavy snowfall. Southland also has four professional sporting sides that are based in Invercargill:

  • Southland Stags (Rugby)
  • Spirit FC (Association Football)
  • Southern Steel (Netball)
  • Southland Sharks (Basketball)

Invercargill is home to the only indoor cycling velodrome in the South Island. The indoor 250 metres wooden velodrome is home to Track Cycling in Southland. The Invercargill Licensing Trust supports the velodrome which is situated at Stadium Southland, a large indoor sports complex located at Surrey Park.



  • The University of Otago College of Education has its southern most campus in Invercargill.
  • Invercargill is home to the Southern Institute of Technology, a polytechnic which provides undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications.
  • The Southern Wings Aviation College which operates out of Invercargill airport provides aviation licence training and the New Zealand Diploma in Aviation.

High schools

All high schools in Invercargill are Year 7–13, following a Ministry of Education review in 2004 that made most of Invercargill's primary schools Year 1–6, while also closing the Year 7–8 schools Rosedale Intermediate, Collingwood Intermediate and Tweedsmuir Junior High.

  • James Hargest College is in northern Invercargill with about 1,800 pupils.
  • Aurora College was established in 2005, after Mount Anglem College was closed in 2004.
  • Southland Girls' High School In 2005 became the first state Year 7–13 single-sex female school in New Zealand.
  • Southland Boys' High School In 2005 became the first state Year 7–13 single-sex male school in New Zealand.
  • Verdon College is a co-educational Catholic school with about 700 pupils.
  • Te Wharekura o Arowhenua A Māori school on Tweed street. Teaches years from 1–15.

Primary schools

Most primary schools are Year 1–6.

  • New River Primary School, co-ed school for Years 1–6 in South Invercargill area. Formerly Kew, South, Clarendon and Clifton Schools.
  • St Joseph's, a small co-ed school for Years 1–6, a Catholic school near St Mary's Basilica.
  • St Theresa's, North Invercargill, a co-ed Catholic primary school.
  • St Patrick's, Georgetown, a co-ed Catholic primary school.
  • Ascot Community School, the only public co-ed school in Hawthorndale area.
  • Fernworth Primary – co-ed school in Heidelberg area. Formerly St George and Elston Lea.
  • Windsor North School, co-ed school in Rosedale area. Previously Invercargill North School.
  • Waverley Park School, co-ed school in Waverley Park area.
  • Waihopai School, co-ed school in Waihopai area.
  • Salford School, co-ed school in Rosedale area.
  • St John's Girls' School, small school. Invercargill's only private school. Christian character.
  • Sacred Heart Primary School, North Road, Waikiwi, co-ed Special Character Catholic family school serving the northern suburbs of Waikiwi, Grasmere and Makarewa.
  • Donovan Primary School, co-ed school Grasmere area. Formerly Grasmere, Waikiwi, West Plains. Current Principal is Peter Hopwood.
  • Otatara Primary School, co-ed school in Otatara area.
  • Myross Bush Primary School, co-ed school in Myross Bush area.
  • Newfield Park School, co-ed school in Newfield
  • Southland Adventist Christian School. A small co-ed school in the Waikiwi area. Formerly Seventh Day Adventist School. Christian Character.
  • Middle School, co-ed school located in the middle of Invercargill
  • Westmount School. A private (Brethren) school located in the Clarendon area.

Notable residents

Nathan Cohen rowing
Nathan Cohen
Marton Csokas by andrew maccoll
Marton Csokas
  • Bruce Aitken – drummer
  • Peter Arnett – NBC war correspondent
  • Peter Beck – Rocket Lab, founder and CEO
  • Eliza Ann Brown - first president of the first WCTU organisation in New Zealand (1884)
  • Oliver Bulleid – Railway locomotive designer and Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Southern Railway, born in Invercargill in 1882
  • John Burke – Mayor of Porirua
  • Johnnie Checketts – Silver Star, Wingco and Spitfire Ace
  • Nathan Cohen – Olympic and two-time world champion rower
  • Bill Crawford-Crompton – Silver Star, Air Vice Marshal and WW2 Commander and Ace
  • Geoffrey Cox – Rhodes Scholar, Chief Intelligence Officer to General Freyberg in WWII, founded Britain's pioneering News at Ten on ITN.
  • Marton Csokas – actor
  • Dave Cull - former TV host and mayor of Dunedin
  • Dan Davin – author, editor
  • Corey Flynn – Hooker for All Blacks
  • Ernest Godward – inventor of the spiral hairpin and the petrol economiser
  • Dene Halatau – Wests Tigers Utility in the NRL
  • Joseph Hatch – businessman, oil factor
  • Brigadier James Hargest; CBE, DSO & 2 bars, MC, ED, MP – New Zealand chief military officer for Southland and politician
  • Rowena JacksonRoyal Ballet prima ballerina
  • Jason Kerrison – Opshop singer/songwriter
  • Chris Knox – musician, cartoonist, filmmaker
  • Alex Lithgow – composer, musician, conductor
  • Bill Manhire – inaugural NZ poet laureate
  • Khan Manuel – Guitarist/Composer
  • Herbert James "Burt" Munro – inventor, motorcycle enthusiast, racer and under-1000 cc land speed record holder
  • Mils Muliaina – All Black
  • Harry Norris – music director of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company
  • Anton Oliver – All Black
  • Warren Parry – darts player
  • Herbert Pither – aviation legend of Southland
  • Suzanne Prentice – musician
  • Boyce Richardson – journalist, author, filmmaker
  • Lesley Rumball – former Silver Ferns Captain
  • Tom Scully – cyclist, 2014 Commonwealth Gold Medallist
  • Glen Thomson – cyclist, 1998 Commonwealth Gold Medallist, 1994 Commonwealth Bronze Medallist
  • David Strang – inventor of instant coffee in 1890
  • Garfield Todd – Prime Minister of Rhodesia
  • Jeremy Waldron – legal and political philosopher
  • Joseph Ward – Prime Minister of New Zealand
  • Jeff Wilson – All Black and Black Cap ("Double All Black")
  • Bob Yule – WWII fighter pilot

Images for kids

See also

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