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Masterton District
Territorial authority
Location of Masterton District in North Island
Location of Masterton District in North Island
Country  New Zealand
Region Wellington
Territorial authority Masterton District
Town founded 1854
Electorate Wairarapa
 • Territorial 2,299 km2 (888 sq mi)
 • Urban
100.66 km2 (38.87 sq mi)
111 m (364 ft)
 (June 2016)
 • Territorial 24,600
 • Density 10.700/km2 (27.71/sq mi)
 • Urban
 • Urban density 210.6/km2 (545.5/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+12 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+13 (NZDT)
Area code(s) 06

Masterton (Māori: Whakaoriori) is a large town and local government district in the Wellington Region of New Zealand. It is the largest town in the Wairarapa, a region separated from Wellington by the Rimutaka ranges. It is 100 kilometres north-east of Wellington, 39.4 kilometres south of Eketahuna, on the Ruamahanga River.

Masterton has an urban population of 21,200, and district population of 24,600 (June 2016).

The Wairarapa Line railway allows access to Wellington, Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt.

Masterton businesses include services for surrounding farmers. Three new industrial parks are being developed in Waingawa, Solway and Upper Plain. The town is 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.


At the 2013 census, Masterton District had a population of 23,352, an increase of 729 people, 3.2 percent, since the 2006 census. Its population is ranked 40th in size out of the 67 districts in New Zealand. There were 9,600 occupied dwellings, 1368 unoccupied dwellings, and 42 dwellings under construction.

Of the population, 11,226 (48.0%) were male, and 12,123 (52.0%) female. The district had a median age of 42.8 years, 4.8 years above the national median age of 38 years. People aged 65 years and over made up 19.1% of the population, compared to 14.3% nationally, and people under 15 years made up 20.0%, compared to 20.4% nationally.

Masterton's ethnicity was made up of (national figure in brackets): 86.6% European (74.4%), 18.6% Maori (14.9%), 2.4% Asian (11.8%), 3.3% Pacific Islanders (7.4%), 0.30% Middle Eastern/Latin American/African (1.2%), 2.1% 'New Zealanders' (1.6%), and 0.00% Other (0.00%).

Masterton had an unemployment rate of 7.3% of people 15 years and over, compared to 7.1% nationally. The median annual income of all people 15 years and over was $23,500, compared to $28,500 nationally. Of those, 39.3% earned under $20,000, compared to 38.2% nationally, while 19.7% earned over $50,000, compared to 26.7% nationally. There has been job growth of 1.9% since 2014 resulting in a net increase of 220 jobs. Greatest increases are seen in Beekeeping, Aged Care residential services, Secondary and Primary Education, Hospitality, Sheep-Beef, Printing and Construction. Mean earnings increase of 3.7% since 2014, compared to 3.0% for the Wellington Region and 3.1% for New Zealand


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. 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. 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 south of Masterton though as of 2015, there are no commercial flights from it. 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.

Sister cities

Masterton has sister-city relationships with:


Masterton is the antipode of Segovia, Spain.

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