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Lower Hutt

Te Awa Kairangi ki Tai (Māori)
Lower Hutt from the air, looking eastwards in March 2009
Lower Hutt from the air, looking eastwards in March 2009
Coat of arms of Lower Hutt
Coat of arms
Location of Lower Hutt
Country  New Zealand
Region Wellington
  • Western
  • Northern
  • Central
  • Eastern
  • Harbour
  • Wainuiomata
Community Boards
  • Eastbourne
  • Petone
  • Wainuiomata
Electorates Hutt South (general)
Remutaka (general)
Te Tai Tonga (Māori)
Ikaroa-Rāwhiti (Māori)
Suburbs Korokoro
Harbour View
Stokes Valley
 • Territorial 376.40 km2 (145.33 sq mi)
 • Urban
78.53 km2 (30.32 sq mi)
 • Rural
297.87 km2 (115.01 sq mi)
 (June 2020)
 • Territorial 111,800
 • Density 297.02/km2 (769.3/sq mi)
 • Urban
 • Urban density 1,409.7/km2 (3,651.0/sq mi)
5010, 5011, 5012, 5013, 5014, 5019
Area code(s) 04

Lower Hutt (Māori: Te Awa Kairangi ki Tai) is a city in the Wellington Region of New Zealand. Administered by the Hutt City Council, it is one of the four cities that constitute the Wellington metropolitan area.

It is New Zealand's sixth most populous city, with a population of 111,800. The total area administered by the council is 376.4 km2 (145 sq mi) around the lower half of the Hutt Valley and along the eastern shores of Wellington Harbour, of which 78.53 km2 (30 sq mi) is urban. It is separated from the city of Wellington by the harbour, and from Upper Hutt by the Taita Gorge.

Lower Hutt is unique among New Zealand cities, as the name of the council does not match the name of the city it governs. Special legislation has since 1991 given the council the name "Hutt City Council", while the name of the place itself remains "Lower Hutt City". This name has led to confusion, as Upper Hutt is administered by a separate city council, the Upper Hutt City Council. The entire Hutt Valley includes both Lower and Upper Hutt cities. Lower Hutt is also often simply called "the Hutt".


Before European settlement, thick forest covered most of the Hutt Valley, with areas of marshland close to the river's mouth. Māori inhabited the shoreline, with a pa at each end of Petone beach.

The local Māori welcomed the arrival of the New Zealand Company ship Tory in 1839, and William Wakefield (the company's agent) negotiated with local chiefs to allow settlement. The first immigrant ship, the Aurora, arrived on 22 January 1840, still celebrated every year on the Monday closest as Wellington's Anniversary Day. A settlement, Britannia, grew up close to the mouth of the Hutt River, and settlers set up the infant country's first newspaper and bank.

The city takes its name from the river, named after the founding member, director and chairman of the New Zealand Company, Sir William Hutt.

Christ Church Taita
Christ Church, Taitā, built in 1853 is the oldest church in the Wellington region.

Within months of settlement the river flooded, and in March 1840 the majority of Britannia settlers decided to move to Thorndon, (as of 2013 in the heart of Wellington city), though some settlers remained at the north end of the harbour. In the 1840s an area on the west bank of the Hutt River formed the village then known as Aglionby.

In 1846 conflict arose between settlers and Māori, which led to skirmishes in the Hutt Valley Campaign.

The 1855 Wairarapa earthquake (in the range 8.1–8.3) raised part of the lower valley, allowing reclamation of land from swamp. The fault escarpment from the earthquake is still visible, notably at Hutt Central School.

On New Year's Day 1859 the first permanent lighthouse to be built in New Zealand was lit at Pencarrow Head, and was home to New Zealand's only female lighthouse keeper, Mary Jane Bennett, was the inaugural operator of the lighthouse.

The railway line from central Wellington reached Lower Hutt station (now Western Hutt) in April 1874, with the line travelling north up the west side of the river to Silverstream opening two years later.

Before the Second World War, urban settlement in the lower Hutt Valley concentrated mainly on Petone, central Lower Hutt and Eastbourne, with a total population of 30,000. In 1927 the Public Works Department completed the construction of a branch railway line to Waterloo on the east side of the river; the route diverging from the main line between Lower Hutt and Petone. Two years later the railway workshops moved from Petone to a new larger site off the new branch at Woburn.

In the late 1940s new suburbs of state housing developed along the eastern side of the Hutt Valley, from Waiwhetu to Taita, to alleviate nationwide housing shortages and to cater for the booming population. Between 1946 and 1954, the railway line from Waterloo was extended through these new suburbs to Haywards, becoming the main line in 1954 when the existing main line was closed between Haywards and Melling. By the end of the 1950s, Lower Hutt had a population of 80,000.


The city centres on the lower (southern) valley of the Hutt River, to the northeast of Wellington. The valley widens as the river nears its mouth, so the central urban area of the city forms a triangle with its longest side along the shoreline. In the upper reaches of the city the Western and Eastern Hutt Hills become closer, culminating in the Taitā Gorge at the northern end of Lower Hutt, separating the city from neighbouring Upper Hutt.

Lower Hutt includes the cluster of small settlements that extend down the eastern coast of Wellington Harbour. These include the two large townships of Wainuiomata (inland) and Eastbourne (on the coast). The city also includes a large area of sparsely-populated land to the east of the harbour, extending to Pencarrow Head and into the Rimutaka Ranges.

Lower Hutt's boundaries include the islands in Wellington Harbour, the largest of which, Matiu/Somes Island, is commonly referred to by its former name of Somes Island.


Lower Hutt has a humid climate with relatively warm summers and mild winters with the occasional storm.

Climate data for Lower Hutt
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 28.8
Average high °C (°F) 22.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 18.2
Average low °C (°F) 14.0
Record low °C (°F) 5.2
Precipitation mm (inches) 84
Sunshine hours 235 199 198 159 135 105 124 146 156 176 192 204 2,029

Hutt River

A single major aquifer dominates the lower Hutt Valley: the Hutt River, originally named Heretaunga and as of 2016 known as Awakairangi / Hutt River. Awakairangi in the Maori language means "river of food from the sky".

Lower Hutt occupies the lower regions of the flood plain of the river, one of the most significant features to contain the river, but the threat of flooding from heavy rainfall persists. In 1985 the river burst its banks, and since then floods have been on a smaller scale. Smaller streams and storm-water drains have also caused occasional problems when rainfall exceeds average levels.

Much of the land adjacent to the river is protected as reserve and provides popular recreational areas, with walking and cycling trails and grassed areas at various points along both sides of the river up the Hutt Valley.

With lower river levels in mid-summer, algal blooms have contributed to making slow-flowing areas anoxic. The algal blooms have been attributed as the cause of death of a small number of dogs swimming in the river, as well as of skin reactions in the case of swimmers.

The river is crossed by seven bridges within the city, and has seen many times that number built and replaced since the 1850s.

Tributaries of the Hutt River within Lower Hutt include:

  • Waiwhetu Stream
  • Opahu Stream (Black Creek)


Suburbs of Lower Hutt include the following – listed approximately north to south. (Those in italics are unofficial suburbs.)

West of the Hutt River
Haywards; Manor Park; Kelson; Belmont; Tirohanga; Harbour View; Melling; Normandale; Maungaraki; Alicetown; Ava; Korokoro; Petone
East of the Hutt River
Stokes Valley; Pomare; Taitā; Avalon; Wingate; Naenae; Boulcott; Epuni; Fairfield; Lower Hutt Central; Waterloo; Woburn; Waiwhetū; Moera; Gracefield; Seaview Wainuiomata
Eastern harbour
Point Howard; Sorrento Bay; Lowry Bay; York Bay; Mahina Bay; Sunshine Bay; Days Bay; Eastbourne


Lower Hutt City covers 376.40 km2 (145.33 sq mi) and had an estimated population of 111,800 as of June 2020, with a population density of 297 people per km2. The urban area covers 78.53 km2 (30.32 sq mi) and had an estimated population of 110,700 as of June 2020, with a population density of 1410 people per km2.

The city's population has remained stable since the 1990s. In the five years between the 2013 and 2018 censuses, the population grew steadily across the city with an increasing amount of homes being purchased and the area seen as more affordable comparable to the rest of the region.

Historical population
Year Pop. ±% p.a.
1996 98,300 —    
2001 98,600 +0.06%
2006 97,701 −0.18%
2013 98,238 +0.08%
2018 104,532 +1.25%

Lower Hutt City had a population of 104,532 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 6,294 people (6.4%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 6,831 people (7.0%) since the 2006 census. There were 37,161 households. There were 51,369 males and 53,163 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.97 males per female. The median age was 36.9 years (compared with 37.4 years nationally), with 21,135 people (20.2%) aged under 15 years, 20,682 (19.8%) aged 15 to 29, 48,480 (46.4%) aged 30 to 64, and 14,232 (13.6%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 67.6% European/Pākehā, 18.4% Māori, 11.5% Pacific peoples, 15.2% Asian, and 3.0% other ethnicities. People may identify with more than one ethnicity.

The percentage of people born overseas was 25.4, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 46.4% had no religion, 38.2% were Christian, 3.8% were Hindu, 1.0% were Muslim, 1.2% were Buddhist and 3.3% had other religions.

Largest groups of overseas-born residents
Nationality Population (2018)
England 4,083
India 3,183
China 2,310
Samoa 2,310
Philippines 1,488
Australia 1,404
Fiji 1,260
South Africa 1,131
Scotland 669
United States 543

Of those at least 15 years old, 20,616 (24.7%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 14,100 (16.9%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $34,700, compared with $31,800 nationally. 16,173 people (19.4%) earned over $70,000 compared to 17.2% nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 43,563 (52.2%) people were employed full-time, 11,337 (13.6%) were part-time, and 3,987 (4.8%) were unemployed.

Individual statistical areas
Name Area (km2) Population Density (per km2) Households Median age Median income
Western Ward 44.49 16,353 368 5,778 37.6 years $45,600
Harbour Ward 25.55 18,654 730 7,329 39.6 years $38,300
Northern Ward 18.30 16,032 876 5,271 33.9 years $29,400
Central Ward 7.72 17,265 2,236 6,438 41.8 years $34,500
Eastern Ward 14.43 17,670 1,225 6,237 35.0 years $29,500
Wainuiomata Ward 265.91 18,561 70 6,111 33.9 years $31,900
New Zealand 37.4 years $31,800

Culture and leisure

Several education and research facilities of national significance are in the southern half of the city. Cultural facilities include the Dowse Art Museum and the Avalon film and television studios

The city possesses civic administration buildings constructed in the 1950s that are regarded as representative architecture of the era. A building of national significance is Vogel House, a two-storey wooden residence that was the official residence of the Prime Minister of New Zealand for much of the 20th century. It is a prime example of early colonial architecture in New Zealand and operates today as a tourist attraction.

The city is popular for outdoor sports, especially mountain biking, hiking, recreational walking and fishing. The central city is home to Westfield Queensgate, a large shopping centre. The Riverbank car park adjacent to the central city is home to a Saturday market.

Among the filming locations for The Lord of the Rings (film series) directed by Peter Jackson, Dry Creek quarry, which dominates the hills above the suburb of Taitā, became the site for a huge medieval castle built for scenes of Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith.

Flora and fauna

Hills to about 350 m (1000 ft) line both sides of the valley within the city limits. The western hills have been populated as residential areas, but the eastern side is protected and clad in native bush and scrub, and the ubiquitous gorse in areas that have been cleared as a result of scrub fires or earlier human activity.

Native birds are common, including the New Zealand pigeon, tui, grey fantail, silvereye, shining cuckoo (in season), grey warbler and morepork. Introduced species include the common blackbird, song thrush, house sparrow, European goldfinch, common chaffinch, common starling, and Australian magpie.

Sister-city relationships

Lower Hutt has five sister cities:

Tempe was the first Sister City, in 1981; Minoh City in 1995; Xi'an since 2000; Taizhou formalised the agreement in 2008; and Laredo the most recent, in 2011.

Image gallery

HuttCity print SML
Lower Hutt from Normandale, in the western hills. On the right is the entrance to Wellington Harbour, with Matiu/Somes Island beneath. The Hutt River snakes from the right background to the left mid-ground, entering the harbour between the suburbs of Seaview and Petone. The Wainuiomata Hill Road climbs the hills in the centre background (the track in the middle of the left half of the background is a firebreak, not a road). At the foot of the Wainuiomata Hill Road is the Gracefield industrial area.
Wider view of the Lower Hutt valley. This view shows Wellington in the distance on the extreme right hand side. Past the Lower Hutt CBD in the centre of the photo, and onto Avalon and Taitā on the left-hand side.
Lower Hutt from the top of the Wainuiomata hills. This viewpoint can be seen in the top panorama by following the ridgeline left from the top of the Wainuiomata Hill Road to the first major firebreak
Lower Hutt Panorama at night
Wellington Harbour and southern Lower Hutt from the top of the Wainuiomata Hill Road (south of the above photo), looking west. Matiu/Somes Island is in the harbour on the left (South), and beyond that the row of lights along State Highway 2, marking the line of the geologic fault, both of which continue up the far side of the valley to the right. The industrial area in the central foreground is Gracefield. In the distance, behind Matiu/Somes Island, are Wellington port and CBD.


Gear Meat Company, Petone (21430987361)
Early 1900s photo taken from Korokoro looking down on Petone and the Gear Meat Company

Historically, Petone, Seaview and Gracefield have been the main area for industry in the Wellington region, with industries including meat processing and freezing, motor vehicle assembly, and timber processing. As business have taken advantage of global manufacturing efficiencies, much of this large scale industry has changed to smaller design-led and medium-sized industries exporting to the world. Over the past 25 years service, distribution, and consumer-oriented sectors have increased. Lower Hutt remains the main location for light industrial activity in the Wellington Region.

Until post-war housing development took over, the central and northern areas of the city were largely market gardens.

In 2010 the lower reaches of the Waiwhetū Stream was cleaned up to remove toxins from decades of industry use. The channel was also widened to better protect against floods and native plantings and management has seen native waterlife and birds return to their habitat.

Petone's Jackson Street and neighbouring areas have seen a resurgence in to one of Wellington's most popular retail and hospitality area.

Lower Hutt has one of the greatest proportion of science, technology and high value manufacturing businesses in New Zealand. Crown research institute GNS Science and New Zealand's innovation centre and business accelerator Callaghan Innovation are based in Lower Hutt, along with over 800 research organisations in high-end manufacturing, research and technology.

Avalon television studios, Lower Hutt, NZ (cropped)
Avalon TV Studios from Harcourt Werry Drive

The suburb of Avalon was home to New Zealand's television industry from 1975 until the late 1980s. The Avalon film and television studios were New Zealand's first purpose-built television studios, and is the largest television studio complex in New Zealand and Australasia. The studios were home to Television One from 1975 to 1980, when it merged with South Pacific Television to form Television New Zealand (TVNZ). After 1989 most of TVNZ's operations moved to Auckland, and the studios were eventually sold off in 2012 to a consortium of Wellington investors. Avalon continues to operate independently with seven film and television studios used as primarily as a feature film production base.

A large proportion of Lower Hutt's residents commute to the mainly commercial, service and government offices in Wellington City 12 km to the south-west.

The Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAA) has its headquarters in Aviation House in Petone, Lower Hutt.


Lower Hutt has four state secondary schools: Taita College, Naenae College, Hutt Valley High School and Wainuiomata High School. Other secondary schools include Chilton Saint James School, a private girls school; Raphael House Rudolf Steiner School, a state integrated Waldorf education school; Sacred Heart College, a state integrated Catholic girls school; St Bernard's College, a state integrated Catholic boys school; and St Oran's College, a state integrated Presbyterian girls school.

Open Polytechnic Main Entrance (15409927572)
The main entrance to the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand

The city is home to two tertiary institutes: the Wellington Institute of Technology in Petone, and The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand in Waterloo.

Notable people

  • Ginny Andersen (born 1975), politician
  • Chris Bishop (born 1983), politician
  • Russell Brown (born 1962), media commentator
  • Terence Burns (born 1938), cricketer
  • Tāmati Coffey (born 19 September 1979) is a Member of Parliament
  • Julian Dennison (born 2002), child actor
  • Kerry Fox (born 30 July 1966), actor
  • Brooke Fraser (born 15 December 1983), singer and songwriter
  • Veranoa Hetet (born 1966), Māori weaver and contemporary artist
  • Peter Hogg (1939–2020), Canadian lawyer, author and legal scholar best known as the leading authority on Canadian constitutional law
  • Lloyd Jones (born 1955), author
  • Alan MacDiarmid (1927–2007), Nobel laureate
  • Brad McKay (born 1979), Australian medical doctor, sceptic, television personality and author
  • Anna Paquin (born 1982), Oscar winning actress
  • Haylee Partridge (born 1981), cricketer
  • Erenora Puketapu-Hetet (1941–2006), Māori weaver and author
  • Tana Umaga (born 1973), former All Blacks captain, former player and current rugby union coach
  • Holly Walker (born 15 November 1982), politician
  • Piri Weepu (born 1983), former All Blacks player and current rugby union player
  • Puti Tipene Watene (18 August 1910 – 14 June 1967), rugby league footballer and politician
  • Nick Willis (born 1983), two-time Olympic medallist (Beijing and Rio)
  • Sir Walter Nash (born 1882), New Zealand Prime Minister (1957–60), MP for Hutt from 1929 to 1968
  • Eddie Rayner (born 1952), keyboardist for Split Enz (1974–1984)

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