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Greater Wellington
(Wellington Region)

Te Pane Matua Taiao
(Te Upoko o te Ika)
Location of Greater Wellington(Wellington Region)
Country New Zealand
Island North Island
Established 1989
Seat Wellington
Territorial authorities
 • Land 8,049.44 km2 (3,107.91 sq mi)
 (June 2020)
 • Region 542,000
Time zone UTC+12:00 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+13:00 (NZDT)
HDI (2017) 0.951
very high · 1st

Greater Wellington (Māori: Te Pane Matua Taiao), also known as the Wellington Region (Māori: Te Upoko o te Ika), is a non-unitary region of New Zealand that occupies the southernmost part of the North Island. The region covers an area of 8,049 square kilometres (3,108 sq mi), and has a population of 542,000 (June 2020).

The region takes its name from Wellington, New Zealand's capital city and the region's seat. The Wellington urban area, including the cities of Wellington, Porirua, Lower Hutt, and Upper Hutt, accounts for 79 percent of the region's population; other major urban areas include the Kapiti conurbation (Waikanae, Paraparaumu, Raumati Beach, Raumati South, and Paekākāriki) and the town of Masterton.

Term Wellington region

In common usage the terms Wellington region and Greater Wellington are not clearly defined, and areas on the periphery of the region are often excluded. In its more restrictive sense the region refers to the cluster of built-up areas west of the Tararua ranges. The much more sparsely populated area to the east has its own name, Wairarapa, and a centre in Masterton. To a lesser extent, the Kapiti Coast is sometimes excluded from the region. Otaki in particular has strong connections to the Horowhenua District to the north.

Former Wellington City mayor Celia Wade-Brown is not in favour of the region adopting a 'super city' type council like the one in Auckland, though is in favour of reducing the number of councils from nine to "three or four".


The Māori who originally settled the region knew it as Te Upoko o te Ika a Māui, meaning "the head of Māui's fish". Legend recounts that Kupe discovered and explored the region in about the tenth century.

The region was settled by Europeans in 1839 by the New Zealand Company. Wellington became the capital of Wellington Province upon the creation of the province in 1853, until the Abolition of the Provinces Act came into force on 1 Nov 1876. Wellington became capital of New Zealand in 1865, the third capital after Russell and Auckland.


Wellington landsat labelled
A composite landsat-7 image of the southwestern part of the region
Population density at the 2006 census

The region occupies the southern tip of the North Island, bounded to the west, south and east by the sea. To the west lies the Tasman Sea and to the east the Pacific Ocean, the two seas joined by the narrow and turbulent Cook Strait, which is 28 kilometres (17 mi) wide at its narrowest point, between Cape Terawhiti and Perano Head in the Marlborough Sounds.

The region covers 7,860 square kilometres (3,030 sq mi), and extends north to Otaki and almost to Eketahuna in the east.

Physically and topologically the region has four areas running roughly parallel along a northeast–southwest axis:

  • The Kapiti Coast, a narrow strip of coastal plain running north from Paekakariki. It contains numerous small towns, many of which gain at least a proportion of their wealth from tourism, largely due to their fine beaches.
  • Rough hill country inland from the Kapiti Coast, formed along the same major geologic fault responsible for the Southern Alps in the South Island. Though nowhere near as mountainous as the alps, the Rimutaka and Tararua ranges are still hard country and support only small populations, although it is in small coastal valleys and plains at the southern end of these ranges that the cities of Wellington and the Hutt Valley are located.
  • The undulating hill country of the Wairarapa around the Ruamahanga River, which becomes lower and flatter in the south and terminates in the wetlands around Lake Wairarapa and contains much rich farmland.
  • Rough hill country, lower than the Tararua Range but far less economic than the land around the Ruamahanga River. This and the other hilly striation are still largely forested.
On the Quartz Hill track, Wellington, New Zealand, 7 September 2006 - Flickr - PhillipC
On the Quartz Hill track

There are five parks owned by the regional council:

  • Battle Hill Farm Forest Park
  • Belmont Regional Park
  • East Harbour Regional Park
  • Kaitoke Regional Park
  • Queen Elizabeth Park
Aerial view of Wellington city
Plimmerton and Pauatahanui, New Zealand, 3rd. Dec. 2010 - Flickr - PhillipC
Plimmerton, Paremata and Pauatahanui Inlet


Wellington Region covers 8,049.44 km2 (3,107.91 sq mi) and had an estimated population of 542,000 as of June 2020, with a population density of 67 people per km2.

Historical population
Year Pop. ±% p.a.
1991 400,284 —    
1996 414,048 +0.68%
2001 423,765 +0.47%
2006 448,959 +1.16%
2013 471,315 +0.70%
2018 506,814 +1.46%
Population density at the 2006 census

Wellington Region had a population of 506,814 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 35,499 people (7.5%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 57,855 people (12.9%) since the 2006 census. There were 185,382 households. There were 247,401 males and 259,413 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.95 males per female. The median age was 37.2 years (compared with 37.4 years nationally), with 93,903 people (18.5%) aged under 15 years, 109,317 (21.6%) aged 15 to 29, 231,162 (45.6%) aged 30 to 64, and 72,426 (14.3%) aged 65 or older.

Of those at least 15 years old, 128,928 (31.2%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 55,359 (13.4%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $36,100, compared with $31,800 nationally. 94,065 people (22.8%) earned over $70,000 compared to 17.2% nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 217,071 (52.6%) people were employed full-time, 58,725 (14.2%) were part-time, and 18,294 (4.4%) were unemployed.

Statistics of individual territorial authorities in Wellington region (2018 census)
Territorial authority Population Dwellings Median age Median income
Kāpiti Coast district 53,673 24,924 47.9 years $29,700
Porirua city 56,559 18,858 35.1 years $34,400
Upper Hutt city 43,980 16,779 39.1 years $35,400
Lower Hutt city 104,532 39,549 36.9 years $34,700
Wellington city 202,737 80,688 34.1 years $41,800
Masterton district 25,557 11,391 43.2 years $27,800
Carterton district 9,198 4,143 46.4 years $29,800
South Wairarapa district 10,575 5,712 47.1 years $32,900
Tararua district (part) 3 N/A N/A N/A
Wellington region 506,814 202,047 37.2 years $36,100

Urban areas

Over three-quarters of the 542,000 people (June 2020) reside in the four cities at the southwestern corner. Other main centres of population are on the Kapiti Coast and in the fertile farming areas close to the upper Ruamahanga River in the Wairarapa.

Along the Kapiti Coast, numerous small towns sit close together, many of them occupying spaces close to popular beaches. From the north, these include Ōtaki, Waikanae, Paraparaumu, the twin settlements of Raumati Beach and Raumati South, Paekākāriki and Pukerua Bay, the latter being a northern suburb of Porirua. Each of these settlements has a population of between 2,000 and 10,000, making this moderately heavily populated.

In the Wairarapa the largest community by a considerable margin is Masterton, with a population of over 20,000. Other towns include Featherston, Martinborough, Carterton and Greytown.

Urban area Population
(June 2020)
 % of region
Wellington 215,100 39.7%
Lower Hutt 110,700 20.4%
Porirua 59,600 11.0%
Upper Hutt 44,300 8.2%
Paraparaumu 30,100 5.6%
Masterton 21,400 3.9%
Waikanae 13,650 2.5%
Carterton 5,800 1.1%
Ōtaki 4,980 0.9%
Featherston 2,680 0.5%
Greytown 2,690 0.5%
Ōtaki Beach 2,040 0.4%
Martinborough 1,930 0.4%
Paekākāriki 1,840 0.3%

Income and employment

The median income as of the 2018 census was $36,100. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 217,071 (52.6%) people were employed full-time, 58,725 (14.2%) were part-time, and 18,294 (4.4%) were unemployed.

Culture and identity

Ethnicities in the 2018 census were 74.6% European/Pākehā, 14.3% Māori, 8.4% Pacific peoples, 12.9% Asian, and 3.3% other ethnicities. People may identify with more than one ethnicity.

The proportion of people born overseas was 26.9%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 50.2% had no religion, 35.6% were Christian, 2.6% were Hindu, 1.1% were Muslim, 1.2% were Buddhist and 3.2% had other religions.

Largest groups of overseas-born residents
Nationality Population (2018)
 England 29,043
 India 11,334
 China 8,664
 Australia 8,400
 Samoa 7,410
 Philippines 6,642
 South Africa 6,435
 United States 4,581
 Fiji 4,047
 Scotland 3,843

In the 2013 census, around 25.3 percent of the Wellington region's population was born overseas, second only to Auckland (39.1 percent) and on par with the New Zealand average (25.2 percent). The British Isles is the largest region of origin, accounting for 36.5 percent of the overseas-born population in the region. Significantly, the Wellington region is home to over half of New Zealand's Tokelauan-born population.

Catholicism was the largest Christian denomination in Wellington with 14.8 percent affiliating, while Anglicanism was the second-largest with 11.9 percent affiliating. Hinduism (2.4 percent) and Buddhism (1.6 percent) were the largest non-Christian religions in the 2013 census.


Key cultural institutions in the region include Te Papa in Wellington, the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt, Pataka museum and gallery in Porirua.


Public transport in the Region is well developed compared to other parts of New Zealand. It consists of buses, trains, cars, ferries and a funicular (the Wellington Cable Car). It also included trams until 1964 and trolleybuses until 2018. Buses and ferries are privately owned, with the infrastructure owned by public bodies, and public transport is often subsidised. The Regional Council is responsible for planning and subsidising public transport. The services are marketed under the name Metlink. Transdev Wellington operates the metropolitan train network, running from the Wellington CBD as far as Waikanae in the north and Masterton in the east. In the year to June 2015, 36.41 million trips were made by public transport with passengers travelling a combined 460.7 million kilometres, equal to 73 trips and 927 km per capita.

The Wellington region has the lowest rate of car ownership in New Zealand; 11.7 percent of households at the 2013 census did not have access to a car, compared to 7.9 percent for the whole of New Zealand. The number of households with more than one car is also the lowest: 44.4 percent compared to 54.5 percent nationally.


From 2005 to 2015 there has been increase in the variety and number of native forest bird species, as well as an increase in the range of areas inhabited by these species, in Greater Wellington.


The subnational gross domestic product (GDP) of the Wellington region was estimated at NZ$39.00 billion in the year to March 2019, 12.9% of New Zealand's national GDP. The subnational GDP per capita was estimated at $74,251 in the same period, the highest of all New Zealand regions. In the year to March 2018, primary industries contributed $389 million (1.0%) to the regional GDP, goods-producing industries contributed $5.93 billion (15.9%), service industries contributed $27.84 billion (74.5%), and taxes and duties contributed $3.20 billion (8.6%).

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