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Whakaoriori (Māori)
Territorial authority
Location of Masterton District in North Island
Location of Masterton District in North Island
Country New Zealand
Region Greater Wellington
District Masterton District
Town founded 1854
NZ Parliament Ikaroa-Rāwhiti (Māori)
 • Territorial 2,300.17 km2 (888.10 sq mi)
 • Urban
21.54 km2 (8.32 sq mi)
69 m (420 ft)
 (June 2020)
 • Territorial 27,500
 • Density 11.956/km2 (30.96/sq mi)
 • Urban
 • Urban density 993.5/km2 (2,573/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+12 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+13 (NZDT)
Area code(s) 06

Masterton (Māori: Whakaoriori), a large town in the Greater Wellington Region of New Zealand, operates as the seat of the Masterton District (a territorial authority or local-government district). It is the largest town in the Wairarapa, a region separated from Wellington by the Rimutaka ranges. It stands on the Waipoua stream between the Ruamahunga and Waingawa Rivers - 100 kilometres north-east of Wellington and 39.4 kilometres south of Eketahuna.

Masterton has an urban population of 21,400, and district population of 27,500 (June 2020).

Masterton businesses include services for surrounding farmers. Three new industrial parks are being developed in Waingawa, Solway and Upper Plain. The town functions as the headquarters of the annual Golden Shears sheep-shearing competition.


Masterton suburbs include:

  • Opaki, Lansdowne, Te Ore Ore on the northern side
  • Eastside and Homebush on the eastern side
  • Upper Plain and Akura on the western side
  • Kuripuni and Solway in on the southern side


Masterton was founded in 1854 by the Small Farms Association. The association was led by Joseph Masters – after whom the town was named – and aimed to settle working people in villages and on the land. At first Masterton grew slowly, but as its farming hinterland became more productive it began to prosper. In the 1870s it overtook Greytown as Wairarapa’s major town. It became a borough in 1877 and was reached by the railway line from Wellington in 1880. This cemented the town’s position as the region’s main market and distribution centre.

In the 20th century Masterton kept growing, but never enough to dominate the region. From the 1960s, people and businesses left for opportunities elsewhere. In the 1980s, with government deregulation and protective tariffs lifted, more businesses closed and the town declined further.

In April 1965 one of the country's worst industrial accidents occurred at the General Plastics Factory.

It did not quite qualify to be a city by 1989 when the minimum population requirement for that status was lifted from 20,000 to 50,000.


House for his family by architect Charles Natusch builders C E Daniell

Masterton District covers 2,300.17 km2 (888.10 sq mi) and had an estimated population of 27,500 as of June 2020, with a population density of 12 people per km2. The Masterton urban area covers 21.54 km2 (8.32 sq mi) and had an estimated population of 21,400 as of June 2020, with a population density of 994 people per km2.

Historical population
Year Pop. ±% p.a.
1891 3,114 —    
1896 3,493 +2.32%
1901 3,949 +2.48%
1906 3,723 −1.17%
1911 5,182 +6.84%
1916 5,560 +1.42%
1921 7,820 +7.06%
1926 8,575 +1.86%
1936 8,950 +0.43%
1945 9,480 +0.64%
1951 11,545 +3.34%
1956 13,000 +2.40%
1961 16,944 +5.44%
1966 19,116 +2.44%
1971 20,194 +1.10%
1976 19,460 −0.74%
1981 18,545 −0.96%
1986 20,145 +1.67%
1991 22,566 +2.30%
1996 22,755 +0.17%
2001 22,614 −0.12%
2006 22,623 +0.01%
2013 23,352 +0.45%
2018 25,557 +1.82%

Masterton District had a population of 25,557 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 2,205 people (9.4%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 2,934 people (13.0%) since the 2006 census. There were 9,936 households. There were 12,372 males and 13,185 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.94 males per female. The median age was 43.2 years (compared with 37.4 years nationally), with 4,968 people (19.4%) aged under 15 years, 4,371 (17.1%) aged 15 to 29, 10,857 (42.5%) aged 30 to 64, and 5,361 (21.0%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 84.7% European/Pākehā, 21.3% Māori, 4.0% Pacific peoples, 3.9% Asian, and 1.6% other ethnicities. People may identify with more than one ethnicity.

The percentage of people born overseas was 12.9, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 50.2% had no religion, 37.7% were Christian, 0.7% were Hindu, 0.1% were Muslim, 0.4% were Buddhist and 3.1% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 3,030 (14.7%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 4,803 (23.3%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $27,800, compared with $31,800 nationally. 2,403 people (11.7%) earned over $70,000 compared to 17.2% nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 9,420 (45.8%) people were employed full-time, 3,270 (15.9%) were part-time, and 705 (3.4%) were unemployed.

Individual statistical areas in Masterton district (2018 census)
SA2 name Population Dwellings Median age Median income
Cameron and Soldiers Park 2,160 963 43.3 years $24,200
Douglas Park 2,016 873 44.7 years $26,000
Kuripuni 1,653 687 45.7 years $26,200
Lansdowne East 2,715 1,158 47.2 years $27,200
Lansdowne West 1,596 696 44.5 years $28,200
Masterton Central 711 297 40.7 years $23,700
McJorrow Park 1,677 588 30.0 years $20,300
Ngaumutawa 1,491 684 46.6 years $27,200
Solway North 2,346 963 40.0 years $26,700
Solway South 3,459 1,401 37.9 years $27,600
Homebush-Te Ore Ore 1,050 432 49.0 years $36,500
Kopuaranga 915 405 45.3 years $35,400
Opaki 1,140 459 49.4 years $42,000
Upper Plain 1,224 480 46.9 years $35,600
Whareama 1,410 1,296 43.6 years $34,000


Masterton enjoys a mild temperate climate grading towards a Mediterranean climate. Due to the geography of the Wairarapa valley and the Tararua Range directly to the west, the town's temperature fluctuates more than nearby inland city of Palmerston North. Masterton experiences warmer, dry summers with highs above 30 °C possible and colder winters with frequent frost and lows below 0 °C.

Climate data for Masterton
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 24.3
Daily mean °C (°F) 18.1
Average low °C (°F) 11.8
Rainfall mm (inches) 44.4
Humidity 76.0 82.9 84.2 87.0 89.5 91.3 91.1 89.6 83.5 79.0 78.8 76.9 84.2
Avg. rainy days 7.1 7.6 10.1 9.2 11.0 13.2 14.1 14.1 11.7 12.8 10.0 9.7 129.8
Sunshine hours 238.6 204.4 169.2 155.6 132.0 99.9 114.9 128.6 148.0 184.0 185.6 221.3 1,964.2
Source: NIWA Climate Data

Politics 2013 to 2016

Applications for local government reorganisation from the Greater Wellington Regional Council and the Wairarapa district councils in mid-2013 led to a proposal from the Local Government Commission for a region-wide unitary authority. In June 2015, the Commission decided not to proceed with this proposal due to lack of public support. Instead, because about 40 per cent of submissions suggested alternatives to the status quo, the Commission decided work with councils and the community to achieve some consensus on the challenges it faced, and to collaborate in identifying possible options to address the challenges.


Masterton is very well served by public transport with rail and bus links. Despite Masterton and the Wairarapa valley being reasonably close to Wellington, they are separated by the Rimutaka Ranges with State Highway 2 cutting a winding hill road through the range, and the Rimutaka railway tunnel. The Wairarapa Line railway allows access to Wellington, Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt.

Unlike other parts of the country, the Wairarapa has seen passenger rail services remain, largely due to its proximity to Wellington and the Rimutaka Tunnel's advantage over the Rimutaka Hill road. There has been talk of constructing a road tunnel through the ranges for decades, but this has been ruled out due to the extremely high cost. According to the latest transportation plan from the Greater Wellington Regional Council, the only work planned is for upgrades to the Rimutaka Hill road and the addition of passing lanes between Featherston and Masterton.


Masterton is linked to Wellington and the Hutt Valley by the Wairarapa Connection, a Tranz Metro passenger service run for Greater Wellington Region's Metlink, primarily operating at peak times serving commuters from Masterton and the Wairarapa with five return services on Monday to Thursday, six on Friday and two at weekends and public holidays. There are three railway stations in the town; Masterton, Renall Street and Solway. Four stations north of Masterton used to operate at Opaki, Kopuranga, Mauriceville and Mangamahoe. Services to these stations ceased between 1969 and 1988. To cope with an increase in logging in the Wairarapa, an additional 2.5 hectare rail freight hub is due to be operational in Norfolk Road, Waingawa by March 2016.


Yak 52 Wairarapa
Four Yak-52s Wings over Wairarapa airshow 2007

There is a local Metlink bus service in Masterton operated by Tranzit. The buses operate on five routes: three suburban and two regional including:

Metlink Bus Services Termini
Route 200
Wairarapa Hospital
Featherston Station
Route 201
Masterton West
Masterton – Church Street
Worksop Road (Woolworths)
Route 202
Masterton South & East
Masterton – Church Street
Masterton – Church Street
Route 203
Masterton – Lansdowne Circuit
Masterton – Church Street
Worksop Road (Woolworths)
Route 205
Featherston Station

There is also the MPN: Masterton to Palmerston North (via Woodville) service, not operated under the Metlink brand.


Hood Aerodrome is 2 miles southwest of the town of Masterton. As of 2015, there are no commercial flights from Hood Aerodrome. From early 2009 until late 2013, Air New Zealand provided flights to Auckland, operated by subsidiary Eagle Airways six days a week, mainly to serve business customers in the Wairarapa. There have been a few other unsuccessful attempts at commercial air travel in Masterton, mostly failing due to its proximity to major airports in Wellington and Palmerston North. The most significant was by South Pacific Airlines of New Zealand (SPANZ), which operated daily flights using DC3s during the sixties to destinations nationwide until the airline's closure in 1966.

Queen Elizabeth Park Masterton (23166740666)
A quiet corner of the park

Sister cities

Masterton has sister-city relationships with:


Masterton is the antipode of Segovia, Spain.


In rugby union, Heartland Championship team Wairarapa Bush is based in Masterton, playing their home games at Memorial Park.

In association football, Central Premier League side Wairarapa United play some of their home games at Masterton; also playing in Carterton.

In cricket, the Hawke Cup team Wairarapa have their headquarters in Masterton. Their home ground is Queen Elizabeth Park.


Masterton's schools were reviewed over 2003 to take into account a changing demographic of the population, with several primary schools closing and merging. Today, there are five state primary schools in the township – four state contributing primaries: Douglas Park, Fernridge, Masterton Primary and Solway; and one state full primary: Lakeview. In addition, there are five state full primary schools in the surrounding district: Mauriceville, Opaki, Tinui, Wainuiouru and Whareama, and two state-integrated primaries: St Patrick's, a Catholic contributing primary, and Hadlow, an Anglican full primary.

Masterton Intermediate School, with over 500 students, is the only intermediate school in Masterton (and the Wairarapa), bridging the gap between the state contributing primary schools and the secondary schools.

Two state secondary schools serve Masterton: Wairarapa College is the largest of the two with 1050 students, serving the western side of the town, while Makoura College with 320 students serves the eastern side of town. Four state-integrated schools also serve the town: Chanel College is a coeducational Catholic school with its own intermediate department; Rathkeale College and St Matthew's Collegiate are Anglican boys and girls schools respectively, with St Matthew's having an intermediate department; and Solway College is a Presbyterian girls school with intermediate. There is also a composite (primary/secondary combined) Māori immersion school in the town: Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Wairarapa.

Masterton has its own polytechnic, run by UCOL (Universal College of Learning).

The Masterton District Library and Archive, situated on Queen Street, are part of the Lower North Island SMART Libraries group, which involves sharing books and information between 22 libraries.

Notable people

  • Sylvia Ashton-Warner
  • Mary Gertrude Banahan
  • Barry Barclay
  • Harold Barrowclough, Chief Justice of New Zealand
  • Amanda Billing
  • Roger Blackley, art historian
  • Constance Bolton, artist
  • Russell Calvert, politician
  • Ted Chamberlain, plant pathologist
  • Jemaine Clement, actor, comedian and musician
  • Wyatt Creech, politician
  • Helen Cowie, Doctor
  • Ian Cross, novelist
  • Barry Dallas, medical practitioner and politician
  • George Davis-Goff, naval officer
  • Haddon Donald, soldier, businessman and politician
  • Pat Evison
  • John Falloon
  • Bill Francis
  • George Groombridge
  • Christopher Hodson
  • Alexander Hogg, newspaper editor and politician
  • Thomas W. Horton, RAF officer
  • Raybon Kan, writer and stand-up comedian
  • Ladyhawke, singer-songwriter
  • Jack Lewin, prominent public servant
  • Sir Brian Lochore, All Black
  • Alan MacDiarmid, Nobel Prize winning chemist
  • Ron Mark, soldier and politician
  • Harold Miller, librarian
  • David Nicholson, Australian politician
  • Susan Parkinson, nutritionist
  • Edwin Perry, politician
  • George Petersen, historian
  • Arthur Prior, logician and philosopher
  • Ian Prior, doctor and epidemiologist
  • Frances Rutherford, artist
  • Brad Shields. Rugby player
  • Campbell Smith, playwright
  • Harold Smith, politician
  • J. Valentine Smith, landowner
  • Olive Rose Sutherland, teacher
  • Ivan Sutherland, ethnologist
  • Selina Sutherland, nurse, founder of Masterton Hospital
  • Bill Tolhurst, politician
  • Elwyn Welch, farmer, ornithologist, conservationist and missionary
  • Aaron Slight, World Superbike motorcycle racer

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