Whanganui facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
The River City
|Territorial authority||Whanganui District|
|• Territorial||2,372.7 km2 (916.1 sq mi)|
|• Density||18.460/km2 (47.81/sq mi)|
Whanganui, also spelt Wanganui, is a city on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. The Whanganui River, New Zealand's longest navigable waterway, runs from Mount Tongariro to the sea. Whanganui is part of the Manawatu-Wanganui region.
Like several New Zealand centres, it was officially designated a city until administrative reorganisation in 1989, and is now run by a District Council.
Although called Wanganui from 1854, the New Zealand Geographic Board recommended that the name be changed to "Whanganui", and the government decided in December 2009 that, while either spelling was acceptable, Crown agencies would use the Whanganui spelling.
- Whanganui District
- Landmarks and buildings
- Social and religious history
- Sister cities
- Image Gallery
Whanganui is located on the South Taranaki Bight, close to the mouth of the Whanganui River. It is 200 kilometres north of Wellington and 75 kilometres northwest of Palmerston North, at the junction of State Highways 3 and 4. Most of the town lies on the river's northwestern bank, due to the greater extent of flat land.
Much of the town is on the river's northwest bank. The river is crossed by four bridges – Cobham Bridge, City Bridge, Dublin Street Bridge and Aramoho Railway Bridge (rail and pedestrians only).
Suburbs of the township include (clockwise from due south), Gonville, Castlecliff, Tawhero, Springvale, St. Johns Hill, Otamatea, Aramoho, Wanganui East, Bastia Hill, Durie Hill and Pūtiki. Of these, all except Wanganui East, Bastia Hill, Durie Hill and Pūtiki are on the northwest bank.
The area around the mouth of the Whanganui river was a major site of pre-European Māori settlement. The pā named Pūtiki (a contraction of Pūtikiwharanui) was and is home to the Ngāti Tūpoho hapū of the iwi Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi. It took its name from the legendary explorer Tamatea-pōkai-whenua, who sent a servant ashore to find flax for tying up his topknot (pūtiki).
In the 1820s coastal tribes in the area assaulted the Kapiti Island stronghold of Ngāti Toa chief Te Rauparaha. Te Rauparaha retaliated in 1830 sacking Pūtiki and slaughtering the inhabitants.
The first European traders arrived in 1831, followed in 1840 by missionaries Octavius Hadfield and Henry Williams who collected signatures for the Treaty of Waitangi. On 20 June 1840, the Revd John Mason, Mrs Mason, Mr Richard Matthews (a lay catechist) and his wife Johanna arrived to establish a mission station of the Church Missionary Society. Revd Richard Taylor joined the CMS mission station in 1843. The Revd Mason drowned on 5 January 1843 while crossing the Turakina River. By 1844 the brick church built by Mason was inadequate to meet the needs of the congregation and it had been damaged in an earthquake. A new church was built under the supervision of Taylor, with the timber supplied by each pā on the river in proportion to its size and number of Christians.
After the New Zealand Company had settled Wellington it looked for other suitable places for settlers. Edward Wakefield, son of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, negotiated the sale of 40,000 acres in 1840, and a town named Petre – after Lord Petre, one of the directors of the New Zealand Company – was established four kilometres from the river mouth. The settlement was threatened in 1846 by Te Mamaku, a chief from up the Whanganui River. The British military arrived on 13 December 1846 to defend the township. Two stockades, the Rutland and York, were built to defend the settlers. Two minor battles were fought on 19 May and 19 July 1847 and after a stalemate the up river iwi returned home. By 1850 Te Mamaku was receiving Christian instruction from Revd Taylor.
The name of the city was officially changed to Wanganui on 20 January 1854. The early years of the new city were problematic. Purchase of land from the local tribes had been haphazard and irregular, and as such many Māori were angered with the influx of Pākehā onto land that they still claimed. It was not until the town had been established for eight years that agreements were finally reached between the colonials and local tribes, and some resentment continued (and still filters through to the present day).
Wanganui grew rapidly after this time, with land being cleared for pasture. The town was a major military centre during the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s, although local Māori at Pūtiki led by Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui remained friendly to settlers. In 1871 a town bridge was built, followed six years later by a railway bridge at Aramoho. Wanganui was linked by rail to both New Plymouth and Wellington by 1886. The town was incorporated as a Borough on 1 February 1872, and declared a city on 1 July 1924.
The Whanganui River catchment is seen as a sacred area to Māori, and the Whanganui region is still seen as a focal point for any resentment over land ownership. In 1995, Moutoa Gardens in Wanganui, known to local Māori as Pakaitore, were occupied for 79 days in a mainly peaceful protest by the Whanganui iwi over land claims.
Wanganui was the site of the New Zealand Police Law Enforcement System (LES) from 1976 to 1995. An early Sperry mainframe computer-based intelligence and data management system, it was known colloquially as the "Wanganui Computer". The data centre housing it was subject to New Zealand's highest profile suicide bombing in 1982 when anarchist Neil Roberts detonated a gelignite bomb in the entry foyer. Roberts was the only casualty of the bombing.
Whāngā nui means big bay or big harbour. Europeans called it Petre (pronounced Peter), after Lord Petre, an officer of the New Zealand Company, but the name did not persist.
Spelling of Wanganui/Whanganui
In the local dialect, Māori pronounce the phoneme wh as a w combined with a glottal stop, and the name as something like "'Wanganui", hard to reproduce by non-locals. Until recently it was generally written as "Wanganui" and pronounced with a w by non-speakers of Māori and a wh (often) by those Māori speakers from other areas who knew its derivation.
Following an article about the river by David Young in the New Zealand Geographic magazine that used "Whanganui" throughout, in accord with the wishes of the local iwi, the spelling of the river's name reverted to Whanganui in 1991. The region's name is now also spelt "Whanganui", but the city has a mixture of spellings.
A non-binding referendum was held in Wanganui in 2006, where 82 percent voted for Wanganui without an 'h'. Turnout was 55.4 percent.
In February 2009, the New Zealand Geographic Board received a proposal that the town's name should be spelt "Whanganui", and in late March found there was a good case for the change. The public was given three months to comment on the proposed change, beginning in mid May. About equal numbers of submissions supported and opposed the change. Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws spoke strongly against the proposed change. Another referendum was held in Wanganui in May 2009 and residents again rejected changing the town's name 77-22. Turnout was 60%. The Geographic Board decided in September 2009 that the name should be spelt "Whanganui", but the decision waited for review by the Minister for Land Information.
In December 2009 the government decided that while either spelling was acceptable, Crown agencies would use the Whanganui spelling. Despite this, some government agencies still use the Wanganui spelling.
On 17 November 2015 Land Information New Zealand Toitū te whenua (LINZ) announced that Wanganui District would be renamed to Whanganui District. This changed the official name of the District Council, and, because Whanganui is not a city but a district, the official name of the urban area as well.
It enjoys a temperate climate, with slightly above the national average sunshine (2100 hours per annum), and about 900 mm of annual rainfall. Several light frosts are normally experienced in winter. The river is prone to flooding after heavy rain in the catchment, and in June 2015 record flooding occurred with 100 households evacuated.
|Climate data for Whanganui|
|Average high °C (°F)||22.4
|Daily mean °C (°F)||18.3
|Average low °C (°F)||14.0
|Precipitation mm (inches)||59.2
|Source: NIWA Climate Data|
The Whanganui District covers 2337 km2, the majority of which is hill country, with a narrow coastal strip of flat land and a major urban settlement on the lower banks of the Whanganui River. A large proportion of this is within the Whanganui National Park.
The region is known for its outstanding natural environment with the Whanganui Awa (River) at its heart. It is the second largest river in the North Island, the longest navigable waterway in the country, and covers 290 kilometres from the heights of Mount Tongariro to Wanganui's coast and the Tasman Sea. Every bend and rapid of the river (there are 239 listed rapids) has a guardian, or kaitiaki, who maintains the mauri (life force) of that stretch of the river.
Whanganui hapū (sub-tribes) were renowned for their canoeing skills and maintained extensive networks of weirs and fishing traps along the River. Generations of river iwi have learned to use and protect this great taonga (treasure) and on 13 September 2012 the Whanganui River became the first river in the world to gain recognition as a legal identity.
Today the River and its surrounds are used for a number of recreational activities including kayaking, jet boating, tramping, cycling and camping. A national cycleway has recently opened, which takes cyclists from the 'mountains to the sea'. The Whanganui National Park provides protection for native flora and fauna and was established in 1986.
In the local government reorganisation of the 1980s, Wanganui District Council resulted from the amalgamation in 1989 of Wanganui County Council, most of Waitotara County Council, a small part of Stratford County Council, and Wanganui City Council. Hamish McDouall was elected mayor in the 2016 local government elections.
All but some 4,200 people in the Whanganui District live in the township itself, meaning there are few prominent outlying settlements. A small but notable village is Jerusalem, which was home to Mother Mary Joseph Aubert and the poet James K. Baxter.
The Whanganui District is also home to other settlements with small populations, including Kaitoke, Upokongaro, Kai Iwi/Mowhanau, Aberfeldy, Westmere, Maxwell, Marybank, Okoia and Fordell.
Wanganui has a strong cultural and recreational focus. Queen's Park (Pukenamu) in the central township has several cultural institutions including the Sarjeant Gallery, the Whanganui Regional Museum, the Davis Library, the Alexander Heritage and Research Library, and the Wanganui War Memorial Centre. Wanganui is home to New Zealand's only glass school and is renowned for its glass art.
Sarjeant Gallery collection
There are more than 5,500 artworks in the Sarjeant Gallery, initially focused on 19th and early 20th century British and European art but, given the expansive terms of the will of benefactor Henry Sarjeant, the collection now spans 16th century through to 21st century.
Among the collections are historic and modern works in all media – on paper, sculptures, pottery, ceramics and glass; bronze works; video art; and paintings by contemporary artists and old masters.
Notable are works by Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Domenico Piola, Frank Brangwyn, Bernardino Poccetti, Gaspard Dughet, William Richmond, William Etty, Lelio Orsi, Frederick Goodall, Augustus John and others.
Among its collection are six works by Wanganui artist Herbert Ivan Babbage.
Celebrated hometown collection of Edith Collier's work.
Whanganui Regional Museum collection
The Whanganui Regional Museum collection has been growing since the first items were displayed in Samuel Henry Drew's shop window in Victoria Avenue. Artwork by John Tiffin Stewart
Wanganui is home to artists who work in a range of media:
Potters have a long history of working in the area Rick Rudd, Paul Rayner, Ivan Vostinar and Ross Mitchell-Anyon.
Largely as a result of the activities of UCOL School of Art, the town has become particularly identified with hot glass, and to a lesser extent 'warm' or kiln-formed glass. Chronicle Glass is a prominent local studio. Award-winning local glass artists include Dr Kathryn Wightman, Lisa Walsh, and Claudia Borella.
A Repertory group has been active in the town since 1933.
Landmarks and buildings
Pukenamu–Queens Park in central Whanganui, formerly the hilltop location of the Rutland Stockade, is home to several iconic buildings. The Sarjeant Gallery, a Category I Historic Place, was a bequest to the town by local farmer Henry Sarjeant, and opened in 1919. Since 2014 it has been in temporary premises on Taupo Quay while the heritage building is strengthened and redeveloped. The Whanganui Regional Museum (1928) and the Alexander Heritage and Research Library (1933) were both bequests of the Alexander family. The award-winning Whanganui War Memorial Hall (1960) is one of New Zealand's finest examples of modernist architecture.
The Royal Wanganui Opera House is located in St Hill Street in central Whanganui. Stewart House on the corner of Campbell and Plymouth Streets is now a private home, but it was formerly the Karitane Home and later a boarding residence for secondary school students. It was built for philanthropist John Tiffin Stewart and social activist Frances Ann Stewart.
There are two large towers overlooking Whanganui: the Durie Hill War Memorial Tower and the Bastia Hill Water Tower. The Durie Hill Tower is a World War I memorial, unveiled in 1926. Nearby is the Durie Hill Elevator (1919), which links the hilltop with Anzac Parade via a 66 m elevator and a 200 m underground tunnel.
South of Whanganui is the Cameron Blockhouse.
Social and religious history
Karitane Hospital, Wanganui Orphanage, Alma Gardens
- Richard Taylor (missionary) was one of the early missionaries and travelled widely through the region.
- W. Tyrone Power
- Edward Jerningham Wakefield
- Joan Rosier-Jones
- Huia Kirk
- Hamish McDouall
- Laraine Sole
- Kyle Dalton
- The Society of St Pius X's main base of operations in New Zealand is in Wanganui.
The Wanganui District Council decided in 2008 to formally end its sister city relationship with Reno, Nevada, USA after years of inactivity. The relationship was parodied on "The Prefect of Wanganui" episode of Reno 911!.
Instead, it has looked to partner a Samoan village in the wake of the 2009 tsunami tragedy.
Upriver near Jerusalem, (Hiruharama)
- Video on the correct pronunciation of Whanganui
Whanganui Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.