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Palmerston North

Te Papaioea (Script error: The function "name_from_code" does not exist.)
Clockwise from top: The Square, Central Business District, All Saints Church, City Library, The Square Clock Tower
Clockwise from top: The Square, Central Business District, All Saints Church, City Library, The Square Clock Tower
Flag of Palmerston North
Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat"
"Let him who has earned it, bear the reward"
Palmerston North is located in New Zealand
Palmerston North
Palmerston North
Location in New Zealand
Country New Zealand
Island North Island
Region Manawatū-Whanganui
Borough proclaimed 1877
City proclaimed 1930
Electorates Palmerston North, Rangitīkei; (Māori): Te Tai Hauāuru
 • Territorial 394.74 km2 (152.41 sq mi)
 • Urban
76.92 km2 (29.70 sq mi)
Highest elevation
760 m (2,490 ft)
Lowest elevation
10 m (30 ft)
 (June 2020)
 • Territorial 90,400
 • Density 229.01/km2 (593.1/sq mi)
 • Urban
 • Urban density 1,059.5/km2 (2,744.2/sq mi)
 • Demonym
Time zone UTC+12 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+13 (NZDT)
Post codes
4410, 4412, 4414, 4471, 4472, 4475, 4810, 4820
Area code(s) 06
Local iwi Ngāti Rangitāne

Palmerston North ( Māori: Te Papa-i-Oea, known colloquially as Palmy) is a city in the North Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Manawatū-Whanganui region. Located in the eastern Manawatu Plains, the city is near the north bank of the Manawatu River, 35 km (22 mi) from the river's mouth, and 12 km (7 mi) from the end of the Manawatu Gorge, about 140 km (87 mi) north of the capital, Wellington. Palmerston North is the country's eighth-largest urban area, with an urban population of 81,500 (June 2020).

The official limits of the city take in rural areas to the south, north-east, north-west and west of the main urban area, extending to the Tararua Ranges; including the town of Ashhurst at the mouth of the Manawatu Gorge, the villages of Bunnythorpe and Longburn in the north and west respectively. The city covers a land area of 395 square kilometres (98,000 acres).

The city's location was once little more than a clearing in a forest and occupied by small communities of Māori, who called it Papa-i-Oea, believed to mean "How beautiful it is". In the mid-19th century, it was settled by Europeans—originally by Scandinavians and, later, British settlers. On foundation, the British settlement was bestowed the name Palmerston, in honour of Viscount Palmerston, a former British Prime Minister. The suffix North was added in 1871 to distinguish the settlement from Palmerston in the South Island. Today, the name is often informally shortened to "Palmy".

Early Palmerston North relied on public works and sawmilling. The west coast railway was built in 1886, linking the town to Wellington, and Palmerston North benefited from a booming pastoral farming industry. Linton Military Camp, Palmerston North Hospital, and the establishment of Massey University (in 1927) have reduced the dependence on farming due to more skilled workers, since the early 20th century. Popular attractions include Te Manawa (a museum and art gallery that includes the New Zealand Rugby Museum), and several performing arts venues.


Ngāti Rangitāne were the local Māori iwi (tangata whenua) living in the area known as Te Ahu-ā-Tūranga, when a trader, Jack Duff, became the earliest known European to explore the area c.1830. He came on a whaling ship and explored possibly as far inland as the site of Woodville. He reported his discovery on arrival back to Porirua. Colonel Wakefield heard of the potential that the Manawatu had for development and visited in 1840. In 1846 Stephen Charles Hartley, another trader, heard from tangata whenua of a clearing in the Papaioea forest and he proceeded through the dense bush and forest and discovered it for Europeans.

In 1858, the Government began negotiations with local iwi to purchase land in Manawatu. There was a dispute at the time between rival iwi Ngāti Rangitāne and Ngāti Raukawa as to who has the right to sell. The dispute is resolved in favour of Rangitāne.

On a visit in 1859, John Tiffin Stewart, an employee of the Wellington Provincial Council, was shown the Papaioea clearing by Rangitāne chief, Te Hirawanu, and noted its suitability for a "good site for a township".

In 1864, Te Ahu-a-Turanga Block was sold by Rangitāne to the Government for £12,000, in an effort to open the Manawatu to settlement.

Stewart returned in 1866 on behalf of the Wellington Provincial Council (under whose jurisdiction the new purchase fell) and made the original survey and subdivision in the Papaioea forest clearing. The settlement, named Palmerston to commemorate the recently deceased Prime Minister of Great Britain, was laid out according to Stewart's plan consisting of a series of wide and straight streets in a rectangular pattern. The focal point was an open space of 17 acres (7 ha) subsequently known as The Square. On 3 October 1866, Palmerston was formally endorsed after Isaac Earl Featherston (Wellington Provincial Superintendent) signed a proclamation defining the boundaries of the settlement. The first sections were sold after.

Among the first settlers included Scandinavians, who arrived in 1871. They established settlements at Awapuni and Whakarongo/Stoney Creek.

Later the same year, the suffix 'North' was added to distinguish the settlement of the same name in the South Island. In 1872 a petition was launched to change the name of the settlement. A public meeting in 1873 ends with no clear decision on the name.

The railway line was laid through the Square in 1875. The foundation stone for the original All Saints Church was laid by Louisa Snelson on 29 September 1875.

In 1876, Palmerston North became a Local Board District, within the Wellington Provincial Council. This existed until the abolition of the provinces later the same year.

Also in the same year, the council set aside land north of the Manawatu River for the purposes of a reserve. In 1890, this land was again set aside and would become in 1897, the Victoria Esplanade.

By 1877, when the Borough Council came into existence, Palmerston North was an isolated village in the midst of the native forest that covered inland Manawatu. By 1878, the population was approximately 800 people and sawmilling was the main industry of the district. As the settlement grew, the forest diminished to make way for farms and housing, and today virtually no remnant of it survives.

The arrival of the railway in 1886 saw an increase in the speed of growth and the town was at the centre of a lucrative agricultural district. The opening of the nearby Longburn Freezing Works provided employment, while the Borough Council instigated more infrastructural schemes such as the sewerage system. The Railway through the Manawatu Gorge to Napier was completed in 1891.

In 1893, Rangitāne sold the Hokowhitu block, increasing the area of land available for settlement. In the same year, the Public Hospital opened in a wooden building on Terrace Street (now Ruahine Street). The hospital required significant fundraising. At the end of the decade, the Boer War broke out in South Africa and men from Palmerston North were among the volunteers.

By 1900 the population had reached 6,000.

In the 1910s Palmerston North's growth was steady. The population in 1911 about 10,991 (excluding Māori). The city was affected by World War I, with Awapuni Racecourse being used as an army training camp in 1914. During the course of the war, the Borough Council renamed all German-sounding and foreign street names. When the war finished in 1918, celebrations were delayed due to the Influenza epidemic.

In 1930, the population reached the 20,000 threshold and Palmerston North was officially proclaimed a city, the 7th in New Zealand. Development was slow due to the great depression and World War II. An airport was established at Milson in 1936, which is now Palmerston North Airport.

From 1938, the first Labour government (1935–1949) initiated state housing programmes in West End (Savage Crescent precinct) and Roslyn.

In 1940 the Māori Battalion was formed in Palmerston North and trained at the Showgrounds (now Arena Manawatu).

In 1941, the Manawatu River flooded again, having last flooded in 1902. Large parts of Hokowhitu and Awapuni were underwater, with residents evacuating to higher ground (peaked at 5.8m).

In 1942, Linton Army Camp was established. After the war, the city'so growth was rapid. By 1950, the city'so boundaries had extended to include Milson and Kelvin Grove. In 1953, the boundaries would further extend to include Awapuni, which in the same year, was again flooded by the Manawatu River, along with Hokowhitu. It was the largest flood since 1902.

Although work had started in 1926, it was not until 1959 the Milson Deviation of the North Island Main Trunk was opened. This meant future trains would pass to the north of the city, instead of through the Square. Later in 1963, the railway station at Tremaine Avenue opens. The last trains passed through the Square in 1964.

In 1961, the Highbury was added to the council area. In 1963, Massey University College of Manawatu was formed by the amalgamation of the Massey Agricultural College with the Palmerston North University College. In 1964, it becomes Massey University of Manawatu, an autonomous tertiary learning institution with the power to grant its own degrees.

In 1967, city boundaries were again extended to include land in Aokautere, Kelvin Grove, Milson, Amberley (Westbrook) and Awapuni as part of future growth for the next 25 years.

In 1970, the Rugby Museum was established and a tribute to the founding father of rugby in New Zealand, Charles Munro, was opened at Massey University.

In 1971, a competition to design a civic building for the vacant railway land at the Square, is won by Wellington architects, Maurice and John Patience. The resulting building was finished in 1979. In 1976, the Manawatu and Oroua rivers flood, 24-hour rainfall records in Feilding and Palmerston North are exceeded and some residents from both locations are evacuated.

In 1977, Palmerston North City Council celebrated its Centenary of Municipal government. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are among visitors to Palmerston North.

On 1 November 1989, New Zealand local government authorities were reorganised. Palmerston North City boundaries were extended to include Ashhurst, Linton and Turitea through amalgamation of parts of the former Kairanga County, Oroua County and Ashhurst Town Council.

On 1 July 2012, Bunnythorpe, Longburn, part of the area around Kairanga and an area around Ashhurst were joined to Palmerston North City Council area.

Physical environment

Palmerston north city
Looking southeast towards Palmerston North city centre from Palmerston North Hospital. In the distance is Tararua Range.

Although the land Palmerston North is situated on is bounded by the lofty Ruahine and Tararua ranges in the east and south respectively, the city has a predominantly flat appearance. The occasional rise in elevation occurs further away from the river and is especially pronounced in the north and northeast, and also on the south side of the river. The typical urban area elevation ranges between 20–40 metres (65–130 ft) above sea level.

The highest point is 760 metres (2,493 ft) above sea level. This is in the Tararua ranges, south-east of Scotts Road.

The lowest Point is 10 metres (33 ft) above sea level. This is at the river bank near Te Puna Road. Incidentally, both these locations are in the south-west of the city, by Linton.

There are 5.54 square kilometres (1,369 acres) dedicated to public reserves.

The length of the Manawatu river within the city boundary is 29.9 kilometres (18.6 mi) and its tributary at Ashhurst, the Pohangina, is 2.6 kilometres (1.6 mi).


Palmerston North's climate is temperate with maximum daytime temperatures averaging 22 °C (72 °F) in summer and 12 °C (54 °F) in winter. On average temperatures rise above 25 °C (77 °F) on 20 days of the year. Annual rainfall is approximately 960 mm (37.8 in) with rain occurring approximately 5% of the time. There are on average 200 rain-free days each year.

In the ranges that flank the city there is often sustained wind, especially in spring. Much of this land is within the city boundaries and these ranges have the reputation of providing the most consistent wind in the country.

Close to the city is the largest electricity-generating series of wind farms in the southern hemisphere, with 286 turbines in the Tararua and Ruahine Ranges providing power for approximately 50,000 homes.

Climate data for Palmerston North (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 23.0
Daily mean °C (°F) 17.8
Average low °C (°F) 12.5
Precipitation mm (inches) 55.0
Humidity 75.3 77.7 79.4 81.2 85.8 86.8 86.8 84.6 79.7 80.5 76.7 76.0 80.9
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 7.1 6.9 7.7 8.2 9.9 12.2 11.6 13.0 11.9 11.8 10.3 11.1 121.7
Sunshine hours 212.4 191.0 173.5 145.6 109.3 79.1 103.8 119.9 124.2 142.6 165.3 176.7 1,743.5
Source: NIWA Climate Data


Palmerston North territorial authority

Palmerston North City covers 394.74 km2 (152.41 sq mi) and had an estimated population of 90,400 as of June 2020, with a population density of 229 people per km2. This comprises 81,500 people in the Palmerston North urban area, 3,160 people in the Ashhurst urban area, and 5740 people in the surrounding settlements and rural area.

Historical population
Year Pop. ±% p.a.
1996 76,000 —    
2001 75,900 −0.03%
2006 77,727 +0.48%
2013 80,079 +0.43%
2018 84,639 +1.11%

Palmerston North City had a population of 84,639 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 4,560 people (5.7%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 6,912 people (8.9%) since the 2006 census. There were 30,531 households. There were 41,286 males and 43,353 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.95 males per female. The median age was 34.0 years (compared with 37.4 years nationally), with 16,707 people (19.7%) aged under 15 years, 21,021 (24.8%) aged 15 to 29, 34,854 (41.2%) aged 30 to 64, and 12,060 (14.2%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 75.9% European/Pākehā, 18.7% Māori, 5.3% Pacific peoples, 12.0% Asian, and 3.0% other ethnicities. People may identify with more than one ethnicity.

The percentage of people born overseas was 20.2, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 49.6% had no religion, 35.9% were Christian, 1.8% were Hindu, 1.6% were Muslim, 1.1% were Buddhist and 3.2% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 15,432 (22.7%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 11,508 (16.9%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $30,000, compared with $31,800 nationally. 9,792 people (14.4%) earned over $70,000 compared to 17.2% nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 32,877 (48.4%) people were employed full-time, 9,882 (14.5%) were part-time, and 3,204 (4.7%) were unemployed.

Largest groups of overseas-born residents
Nationality Population (2018)
England 2,748
India 1,539
China 1,440
Australia 1,155
South Africa 903
Philippines 693
Fiji 528
United States 468
Samoa 441
Malaysia 390

Palmerston North urban area

The Palmerston North urban area had a usual resident population of 76,236 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 3,939 people (5.4%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 5,550 people (7.9%) since the 2006 census. There were 37,080 males and 39,156 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.95 males per female. Of the total population, 14,871 people (19.5%) were aged up to 15 years, 19,545 (25.6%) were 15 to 29, 30,873 (40.5%) were 30 to 64, and 10,947 (14.4%) were 65 or older.

In terms of ethnicity, 74.4% of the population identified as European (Pākehā), 19.1% as Māori, 5.6% as Pacific peoples, 12.9% as Asian, and 3.1% as other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

City facilities and attractions

Palmerston North has a number of facilities and attractions. It is also the gateway to attractions in other parts of the region, such as Tongariro National Park, Ruahine and Tararua Ranges. When Palmerston North Airport serviced international flights, the city was also an international gateway to Hawke's Bay, Wanganui and Taranaki.

The Plaza

The Plaza is the largest shopping centre in the Manawatu-Wanganui region and a key shopping centre in the lower North Island, boasting over 100 stores. It was built in about the 1980s and then upgraded again in around the late 2000s to what it is now.


Downtown on Broadway combines retail and boutique shopping and Downtown Cinemas.

The Square

Palmerston North, Square Edge
Palmerston North, Square Edge

Originally part of the Papaioea clearing, The Square is a seven-hectare park of lawn, trees, lakes, fountains, and gardens in the centre of the city. It is the city's original park and also the centrepoint from whence the city's main streets are arranged.

The Square contains the city's war memorial and a memorial dedicated to Te Peeti Te Awe Awe, the Rangitāne chief instrumental in the sale of Palmerston North district to the government in 1865. Near the centre of the park is the Clock Tower with its illuminated cross and coloured lights. Also here is the city's iSite, the Civic Building (seat of the City Council), the City Library, Square Edge and the commercial heart of Palmerston North's CBD. Retail stores (including the Plaza) and eateries line the road surrounding the park.

In around 1878, a Māori contingent, including Te Awe Awe, gathered together to choose a Māori name for The Square. They chose Te Marae o Hine, meaning "The Courtyard of the Daughter of Peace". This name reflected their hope all people of all races would live together in enduring peace.

All Saints Anglican Church, Palmerston North (c.1914)
All Saints Anglican Church, Palmerston North (c.1914)
Palmerston North City Flag (Displayed)
Palmerston North flag in front of the Clock Tower, The Square

Parks and recreational facilities

Palmerston North and its surrounding are features roughly 100 parks and reserves. The most popular of which is Victoria Esplanade. The Victoria Esplanade are located along the northern bank of the Manawatu River, west of Fitzherbert Avenue. The esplanade gardens include serene native bush surrounding family-friendly facilities, an aviary, a café, a duck pond, the Palmerston North Esplanade Scenic Railway featuring a 2.2 km track through native bush, the Peter Black Conservatory and walking tracks within the bush. The Dugald McKenzie Rose Garden is attached to the esplanade gardens. The Gardens were opened to commemorate the 60th Jubilee of Queen Victoria's reign (1897). A wildlife centre is set to be built here in the near future.

Nearby the Esplanade are the multi-sport playing fields of Ongley and Manawaroa Parks, the twin turf hockey fields and Fitzherbert Park, the premier cricket ground. Elsewhere in the city are parks for sports like rugby, such as Coronation Park, Bill Brown Park and Colquhoun Park (also used for softball/baseball); and football: Skoglund Park (home of the Central Football Federation) and Celaeno Park. Memorial Park has a football pitch, and also has family-friendly facilities. The Hokowhitu Lagoon is also located nearby the Esplanade and is a popular site for recreational kayaking and canoeing.

The Lido Aquatic Centre is Palmerston North's largest aquatic centre. It provides outdoor facilities including a family leisure pool, a 50 m pool for competitive swimming and a dive pool. Indoor facilities include a second family lesiure pool, spa pool, heated pool and cafe. Freyberg Community Pool is an all-year indoor swimming pool complex located next to Freyberg High School in Roslyn.


Palmerston North has a main public library with five branches and one mobile library. The central Palmerston North Library is located in the Square and houses the main collections. The other four are located in Ashhurst, Awapuni, Linton, Roslyn and Te Pātikitiki (Highbury).

Youth Space

Near the Square is the Youth Space, opened in September 2011 as a dedicated place for Palmerston North's many young people to congregate in a safe environment. Youth space is free to all, and provides table-tennis, gaming consoles, musical instruments, library books, iPads, a kitchen, and other services.



Te Manawa is the cultural museum of art, science and history. Attached to Te Manawa is the New Zealand Rugby Museum. There are many small independent galleries. Many of New Zealand's best-known artists came from or live in Palmerston North. The list includes Rita Angus, John Bevan Ford, Shane Cotton, Paul Dibble, Pat Hanly, Brent Harris, Bob Jahnke, John Panting, Carl Sydow and Tim Wilson.

Performing arts

Palmerston North houses multiple theatres which regularly host musical performances, theatrical plays and formal events. These theatres include

  • Regent on Broadway Theatre is a 1393-seat multipurpose performing arts facility.
  • Centrepoint Theatre is a prominent professional theatre and the only one outside the main centres of New Zealand.
  • Globe Theatre is a small community theatre of about 100 seats, built in about 1984. It is currently undergoing redevelopment, with the addition of another 100 seat auditorium.

Top comics including John Clarke, Jon Bridges, Jeremy Corbett, Tom Scott all come from Palmerston North as do stage, television and film performers Paul Barrett, Shane Cortese, Kate Louise Elliott, Simon Ferry, Greg Johnson, Jeff Kingsford-Brown and Alison Quigan.


Palmerston North is reputed to have the highest number of restaurants, eateries and café bars per capita in New Zealand. There is a vast selection of ethnic food options including Thai, French, Chinese, Indian, Korean, Japanese, Cambodian, Mongolian, Italian, Irish, American, Pacific rim and New Zealand cuisines.


Palmerston North has a thriving musical scene with many national and international acts touring through the town, and many local acts performing regularly.

Local groups include the Manawatu Sinfonia and Manawatu Youth Orchestra (MYO) who perform throughout the year. The Manawatu Youth Orchestra celebrated its 50th year in September 2011.


  • February: Esplanade Day
  • February–March: Summer Shakespeare
  • March: Festival of Cultures
  • March: Women's Lifestyle Expo
  • June: Manawatu Wedding Expo
  • September: International Spring Festival
  • September: Swampfest
  • November: Tour de Manawatu Charity Cycle Challenge


Participation in sport is an important and popular pastime in Palmerston North. Representation at a national level is predominantly provincial based, meaning most sports teams representing Palmerston North also draw their players from other towns from around Manawatu.

The premier multi-sports venue in Palmerston North is Arena Manawatu (previously known as Palmerston North Showgrounds). For sponsorship purposes is known as Central Energy Trust Arena. The main stadium (Arena One) is the home of the Manawatu Turbos rugby union team and the Robertson Holden International Speedway. There are indoor venues at Arena Manawatu where netball, basketball, volleyball and Badminton are played.

Other important venues include Memorial Park, Fitzherbert Park, Celaeno Park, Manawaroa/Ongley Park, Skoglund Park, Vautier Park and Massey University sports fields.

Club Sport League Venue
Manawatu Turbos Rugby Union Mitre 10 Cup CET Arena
Manawatu Cyclones Rugby Union Farah Palmer Cup CET Arena
Hurricanes Rugby Union Super Rugby CET Arena #
Manawatu Matadors (Current Champions) Hockey Central Hockey League Endeavour Trust Twin Turfs
Central Pulse Netball ANZ Championship CET Arena 2#
Central Districts Cricket Plunket Shield, Ford Trophy, T20 Fitzherbert Park#
  • # : not based in Manawatu, however, home ground when playing in Manawatu.


Palmerston North is a significant road and rail junction. As such, it is an important distribution hub for the Central and lower North Island, with many freight distribution centres based here.


Palmerston North's arterial roads are arranged in a grid pattern. There are four main dual-carriagway roads radiating from The Square, splitting the city into four quadrants: Rangitikei Street to the north, Fitzherbert Avenue to the south, and Main Street to the east and west.

State highways

Palmerston North is served by four state highways:

  • State Highway 3 NZ.svg State Highway 3 runs northwest–southeast from SH 1 at Sanson through central Palmerston North (via Rangitikei Street, Grey Street, Princess Street and Main Street East), to SH 2 at Woodville. The section from Sanson forms the main route from the upper North Island, Taranaki and Whanganui into Palmerston North, while the section from Woodville forms the main route from the Hawke's Bay into Palmerston North.
  • State Highway 57 NZ.svg State Highway 57 runs southwest–northeast from SH 1 at Ohau, south of Levin, through the southern outskirts of Palmerston North to SH 3 east of Ashhurst. It forms the main route from Wellington to southern and eastern Palmerston North.
  • State Highway 56 NZ.svg State Highway 56 runs southwest–northeast from SH 57 at Makeura, northeast of Shannon, New Zealand, to the intersection of Pioneer Highway and Maxwells Line in the suburb of Awapuni. It forms the main route from Wellington to northern and western Palmerston North.
  • State Highway 54 NZ.svg State Highway 54 runs north-south from SH 1 at Vinegar Hill, north of Hunterville, through Feilding to SH 3 at Newbury, on the northern Palmerston North border. It provides an alternative route from the Upper North island into Palmerston North


Palmerston North is perceived as being better for cycling than most New Zealand cities, with 2001 figures putting it a close second only to Blenheim in terms of bicycle modal share. However, by 2006, cycling to work had almost halved in a decade to 5.4% and the 2013 census found that, in the central city, only 6 cycled, but 690 travelled by motor vehicle.

The Manawatu River Pathway is great for family or beginners riders, as it is all flat to mildly contoured, with some limestone sections, as well as wide cement paths. The track has many access points to this trail, which runs for over 9 km between Maxwells Line in the West to Riverside Drive in the East. A new 3 km section has been added between Ashhurst and Raukawa Road, with plans to link this to the existing path over the next two years, making over 22 km of scenic tracks to explore alongside the river.

Palmerston North has a fairly comprehensive 65 km on-road bicycle lane network, particularly in high traffic areas, to make it safer for people to get around the city by bike. All local buses have racks for two cycles.

The cycle lane network has been criticised for a number of reasons. Motor traffic is often too fast, and there is no physical barrier between bicyclists and motorists. Most bicycle lanes in the city are marked out with parking spaces for motorist parking, making those lanes 'pointless' and raising the risk of motorists opening car doors into the path of passing bicyclists.

Rebecca Oaten, the so-called 'Helmet Lady' who campaigned nationwide in the late 1980s for a New Zealand bicycle helmet law, is from Palmerston North.


After much discussion about introducing a tramway system to Palmerston North including an ambitious tram subway under the central railway station a £60,000 loan was taken out in 1912 for a tramway scheme. Support, howeber was waivering and there were dissagreements within the council over the mode of the trams, one of the proposals was from battery trams similar to the ones that ran in Gisborne. Eventually, the desicion to install tramways in Palmerston North was rescinded by a referendum and in 1920 the die was cast for a motorbus system to begin in Palmerston North. The first buses arrived in Palmerston North by late 1921.

Urban services are coordinated by Horizons Regional Council, through Masterton-based bus company, Tranzit. Seven urban buses leave the terminal in Main Street East (in front of Palmerston North Courthouse) at least every half-hour. The buses are assigned to loop routes servicing different parts of the city. Go cards were replaced by Bee cards on 20 July 2020.

Daily services run to the nearby towns of Linton, Ashhurst, Feilding (via Airport), Foxton, Levin and Marton.

Inter-regional routes are operated by Intercity and Tranzit. Intercity's routes run south (to Wellington), north (towards Auckland, via Whanganui, Rotorua and Taupo, or Napier) and east (to Masterton) from the bus terminal in The Square, Palmerston North.


Palmerston North Airport Terminal building from apron
Palmerston North Airport Terminal Building

Palmerston North Airport is located in the suburb of Milson, approximately 5.5 kilometres (3.4 mi) north of the central business district. It is a regional gateway to the central North Island region. The airport has regular services to domestic destinations including Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton, Nelson and Wellington. Flights are currently served by Air New Zealand Link and Originair.

The airport is presently the operational base of the Massey University School of Aviation. The airport is also an freight hub for Parcelair.


Palmerston North Train Station 8 August 2014
Platform at Palmerston North Railway Station

Palmerston North is on the North Island Main Trunk Railway. There is only one passenger train run by KiwiRail: the weekday-only Capital Connection commuter train once a day to and from Wellington.

Palmerston North was formerly a stop for the Northern Explorer to and from Auckland and Wellington. The Northern Explorer scheduled passenger service was discontinued in December 2021.

Until 1964, the railway ran through the city centre, with Palmerston North railway station in The Square. The station was moved and the track diverted 2.5 km (2 mi) to the north by the Milson Deviation in 1959–1963; work on the deviation had started in 1926.

Near the current railway station, the North Island Main Trunk railway is joined by the Palmerston North - Gisborne Line, which runs through the Manawatu Gorge to Woodville and Hawke's Bay. A connection to the Wairarapa Line is at Woodville.

Sister Cities

Palmerston North has two sister cities:


  • Grant Robertson, Labour MP; born in Palmerston North. Current MP for Wellington Central.
  • Shane Cortese, actor
  • Joseph Nathan, founder of Glaxo
  • Alan Loveday, violinist
  • Ross Taylor – current New Zealand Black Caps captain and Central Districts batsman (cricket)

Named after the city

  • An NAC Vickers Viscount (ZK-NAI) was named "City of Palmerston North". This aircraft was withdrawn from NAC service in 1975.
  • An Ansett New Zealand de Havilland Canada Dash 8 (ZK-NES) was also named "City of Palmerston North", staying in service until the airline's demise.

Official websites

Unofficial portals


Although Palmerston North has 1.9% of the population of New Zealand, 2.5% of the nation's employees work in the city. The important sectors are tertiary education, research and central government (Defence force).

At the 2013 census, the largest employment industries for Palmerston North residents were health care and social assistance (4,686 people, 13.0%), education and training (4,473 people, 12.4%), retail trade (4,062 people, 11.2%), public administration and safety (3,636 people, 10.1%), and manufacturing (2,703 people, 7.5%).

The tertiary education sector provides NZ$500 million a year to the local economy and the education sector accounted for 11.3% of the Palmerston North workforce in February 2006.

Palmerston North has economic strengths in research, especially in the bio-industry, defence, distribution and smart business sectors. The city is home to more than 70 major educational and research institutions, including New Zealand's fastest expanding university, Massey University; the Massey University Sport and Recreation Institute at the Massey University campus, Turitea; Universal College of Learning (UCOL) and Linton Army Camp.

Business innovation

Palmerston North has a long history of innovation in the business sector. A number of firms founded in or near the city have become nationally or internationally renowned. One of the largest and well known of these is GSK (GlaxoSmithKline). Glaxo had its beginnings in Bunnythorpe, now a part of Palmerston North.

Companies with National Head Offices based in Palmerston North:

  • Toyota New Zealand
  • Higgins Group
  • FMG Insurance
  • New Zealand Pharmaceuticals Limited
  • Plumbing World Limited
  • Steelfort Engineering Limited
  • Hino Distributors (NZ) Ltd
  • Hunting and Fishing New Zealand
  • CB Norwood Distributors Ltd
  • Sime Darby Commercial (NZ) Ltd
  • Motor Truck Distributors (NZ) Ltd (National distributors of Mack, Renault and Volvo Trucks & Buses)
  • Truck Stops (NZ) Ltd
  • OBO


Central Energy Trust Arena

Participation in sport is an important and popular pastime in Palmerston North. Representation at a national level is predominantly provincial based, meaning most sports teams representing Palmerston North also draw their players from other towns from around Manawatu.

The premier multi-sports venue in Palmerston North is Arena Manawatu, which is known as the Central Energy Trust Arena after its headline sponsors. The main stadium (Arena One) is the home of the Manawatu Turbos rugby union team and the Robertson Holden International Speedway. There are indoor venues at Arena Manawatu where netball, basketball, volleyball and Badminton are played.

Other important venues include Memorial Park, Fitzherbert Park, Celaeno Park, Manawaroa/Ongley Park, Skoglund Park, Vautier Park and Massey University sports fields.

Club Sport League Venue
Manawatu Turbos Rugby Union Bunnings NPC CET Arena
Manawatu Cyclones Rugby Union Farah Palmer Cup CET Arena
Hurricanes Rugby Union Super Rugby CET Arena #
Central Pulse Netball ANZ Championship Fly Palmy Arena #
Central Districts Cricket Plunket Shield, Ford Trophy, T20 Fitzherbert Park#
Manawatu Jets Basketball NBL Fly Palmy Arena
  • # : not based in Manawatu, however, home ground when playing in Manawatu.


Palmerston North is considered "the student city" of New Zealand North Island. It is an important base for tertiary institutions. The home campuses of Massey University, Universal College of Learning (UCOL) and Institute of the Pacific United (IPU) are here. A large proportion of Palmerston North's population consists of students attending these institutions or the various Papaioea Campuses of Te Wananga o Aotearoa during the student year.

Tertiary Education Institutions
School Name Location
Massey University Turitea
Universal College of Learning Palmerston North Central
Institute of the Pacific United Aokautere
Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Various locations around Palmerston North
The Design School The Square Palmerston North
Primary and Secondary Schools

Palmerston North has five state secondary schools: Palmerston North Boys' High School and Queen Elizabeth College in the north, Freyberg High School in the north-east, Palmerston North Girls High School in the south, and Awatapu College in the south-west. The city also has one state-integrated Catholic secondary school, St Peter's College.

Palmerston North also has one special character secondary school: Cornerstone Christian School, Palmerston North

Notable people

  • Constance Abraham (1864–1942), community leader and sportswoman
  • John Clarke (1948–2017), satirist, author and actor
  • Matthew Conger (born 1978), FIFA international football referee
  • Shane Cortese (born 1968), actor and singer
  • Brendon Hartley (born 1989), racing driver and FIA World Endurance Championship champion
  • Alan Loveday (1928–2016), violinist
  • Joseph Nathan (1835–1912), founder of Glaxo (since merged to become the multinational GlaxoSmithKline)
  • Evelyn Rawlins (1889–1977), music teacher
  • Grant Robertson (born 1971), Labour MP for Wellington Central and the 42nd Minister of Finance
  • Ross Taylor (born 1984), Central Districts and New Zealand Black Caps cricket player and captain
  • Simon van Velthooven (born 1988), track racing cyclist and America's Cup sailor

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