Marlborough Region

The Marlborough Region (Māori: Te Tauihu-o-te-waka, or Tauihu), commonly known simply as Marlborough, is one of the regions of New Zealand, located in the northeast of the South Island. Marlborough is a unitary authority, both a region and a district. Marlborough District Council is based at Blenheim, the largest town. The region has a population of 48,800 (June 2018)[1].


Te Tauihu-o-te-waka
Territorial authority
Region of New Zealand
The Marlborough Sounds seen from the Wellington–Picton ferry
Location in New Zealand
CountryNew Zealand
Unitary authority1992
Marlborough Sounds
  MayorJohn Leggett
  Deputy MayorTerry Sloan
  Total12,494 km2 (4,824 sq mi)
 (June 2018)[1]
  Density3.9/km2 (10/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+12 (NZST)
  Summer (DST)UTC+13 (NZDT)
Area code03
ISO 3166 codeNZ-MBH
HDI (2017)0.919[2]
very high · 6th
WebsiteDistrict Council

Marlborough is known for its dry climate, the Marlborough Sounds, and Sauvignon blanc wine. It takes its name from the earlier Marlborough Province, which was named after His Grace General The 1st Duke of Marlborough, an English general and statesman.[3]


Marlborough's geography can be roughly divided into four sections. The south and west sections are mountainous, particularly the southern section, which rises to the peaks of the Kaikoura Ranges. These two mountainous regions are the final northern vestiges of the ranges that make up the Southern Alps, although that name is rarely applied to mountains this far north.

Between those two sections is the long straight valley of the Wairau River. This broadens to wide plains at its eastern end, in the centre of which stands the town of Blenheim. This region has fertile soil and temperate weather, which has enabled it to become the centre of the New Zealand wine industry.

The fourth geographic zone lies along its north coast. Here the drowned valleys of the Marlborough Sounds make for a convoluted and attractive coastline. The town of Picton is located at the southern end of one of the larger sounds, Queen Charlotte Sound. The town of Havelock is at the southern end of the Pelorus Sound; this sound feeds into Kenepuru Sound.


Statistics New Zealand estimates the population at 46,600 as of June 2018. The region is home to 1.0% of New Zealand's population.[4]

The median age of the population is 45.0 years, seven years above the New Zealand median of 38.0 years. Around 20.5 percent of the population is aged 65 or over, while 18.7 percent is aged under 15. There are 95.8 males for every hundred females.[5]

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [1]

Towns and settlements

Marlborough has three towns with a population over 1,000: Blenheim (26,400), Picton (4,310), and Renwick (2,530). Together they are home to 71.3% of the region's population.[4]

Other towns and settlements include:

Culture and identity

Nearly 9 in 10 (89.2%) residents at the 2013 census identified as of European ethnicity. 11.5% of residents identified as of Māori ethnicity, 2.8% as of Asian ethnicity, 2.3% as of Pacific ethnicity, 0.6% as of Middle Eastern, Latin American and/or African ethnicity, and 2.5% as of another ethnicity.[6]

Around 50.5 percent of Marlborough residents affiliate with Christianity and 2.3 percent affiliate with non-Christian religions, while 43.9 percent are irreligious. Anglicanism is the largest Christian denomination in Canterbury with 17.8 percent affiliating, while Catholicism is the second-largest with 11.2 percent affiliating.[7]


The sub-national gross domestic product (GDP) of the Marlborough region was estimated at NZ$3.02 billion in 2017, 1.1% of New Zealand's national GDP. The three largest contributors to the region's GDP in 2018 were manufacturing ($519m), agriculture and horticulture ($357m), and other primary industries ($276m). The regional GDP per capita was estimated at $65,084 in 2017, the third-highest regional GDP per capita in New Zealand, behind Wellington and Taranaki.[8]

Marlborough has 25,045 hectares of horticultural land as of 2017, the second-largest area in New Zealand behind Canterbury. Wine grapes make up 23,050 hectares of that area, with sweetcorn and peas being the only other crops with more than 100 hectares planted area.[9]


The Marlborough climate has a strong contrast between hot sunny days and cool nights, which extends the ripening period of the vines. This results in more intense flavour and aroma characters in the wine. The first commercial vineyards were planted around Blenheim in 1973, and Marlborough subsequently grew to become New Zealand's largest and most internationally well-known wine-producing region.[10] Due to this growth, particularly in the export market, the Marlborough wine region now produces three quarters of all New Zealand wine.[11] The most important varietal is Sauvignon Blanc, which is recognised as world class; wine writers Oz Clarke and George Taber have described Marlborough's Sauvignon Blanc as the best in the world.[12][13] Also important is the production of méthode traditionelle sparkling wine made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which has attracted investment from large Champagne producers Mumm, Deutz, Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot.[14]

Government and politics

Marlborough is administered by a unitary authority, the Marlborough District Council. Between 1859 and 1876 Marlborough had its own provincial government, and was known as the Marlborough Province, which ended when the Abolition of the Provinces Act came into force on 1 November 1876.[15]

The Marlborough District Council consists of a mayor and 13 councillors. The councillors are elected from three wards: seven from the Blenheim ward, and three each from the Marlborough Sounds and Wairau-Awatere wards. The mayor is elected at-large. Elections are held every three years in conjunction with nationwide local elections, with the next election on 12 October 2019.

As of June 2019, the mayor and councillors are:[16]

  • Mayor: John Leggett
  • Councillors - Blenheim ward: Terry Sloan (deputy mayor), Jenny Andrews, Jamie Arbuckle, Brian Dawson, Michael Fitzpatrick, Mark Peters
  • Councillors - Marlborough Sounds ward: Trevor Hook, David Oddie, Nadine Taylor
  • Councillors - Wairau-Awatere ward: Cynthia Brooks, Geoff Evans, Gerald Hope

Nationally, Marlborough is part of the Kaikōura electorate, which also includes the Canterbury region north of the Ashley River. For the Māori roll, Marlborough is part of the Te Tai Tonga electorate, as is the entire South Island.[17] The electorate was first contested in the 1996 general election, the first under the new MMP voting system. From 1938 to 1996, the region was covered by the Marlborough electorate.[18]

Marlborough is considered a safe area for the National Party, with the region held continuously by the party since the 1975 general election. Stuart Smith of the National Party has been the MP for the Kaikōura electorate since the 2014 general election. Rino Tirikatene of the Labour Party is the MP for the Te Tai Tonga electorate.

A combined District and High Court at Blenheim serves the region judicially.[19]


There are 29 primary and secondary schools in Marlborough. There are 22 state primary schools, one state intermediate school (Bohally Intermediate in Blenheim), three state secondary schools (Marlborough Boys' College and Marlborough Girls' College in Blenheim, and Queen Charlotte College in Picton), and one state area school (Rai Valley Area School). There are two state-integrated schools, one Catholic primary school and one Christian composite school, both in Blenheim.[20]


Marlborough is served by four state highways: State Highway 1, State Highway 6, State Highway 62, and State Highway 63. State Highway 1 is the main highway in the region, connecting Picton and Blenheim, and connecting the region south to Christchurch via Seddon and Kaikoura. State Highway 6 connects Blenheim and Renwick, and connects the region to Nelson and Tasman via Havelock. State Highway 63 leaves State Highway 6 at Renwick and travels via the Wairau Valley and Saint Arnaud to meet SH 6 again at Kawatiri, providing a direct route to the West Coast and bypassing Nelson. State Highway 62 is a short highway linking SH 1 at Spring Creek with SH 6 north of Renwick, providing a direct route between Picton and Nelson and bypassing Blenheim.

The Main North Line railway serves the region, running roughly parallel so State Highway 1. The first section of the line in Marlborough opened on 18 November 1875 between Blenheim and Picton. The line south of Blenheim opened to Seddon in October 1902, to Ward in April 1911, and to Wharanui in December 1915. The line finally opened across the present-day Marlborough border in October 1942 when the line was extended to Clarence. The entire line through to Christchurch opened on 15 December 1945 when the railheads met at Kaikoura.[21] Today, the line is used by the Coastal Pacific passenger train, which operates one return journey per day during the summer months. The line is also heavily used by freight trains between Christchurch and the Cook Strait rail ferry at Picton.

Woodbourne Airport (trading as Marlborough Airport) is the region's main airport.[22] Air New Zealand Link operates flights from Woodbourne to Auckland and Wellington and Sounds Air operates flights from Woodbourne to Wellington and Christchurch Airport. Sounds Air also operates flights from Picton Aerodrome to Wellington.

Port Marlborough at Picton is the region's main seaport. Interislander and Bluebridge both operate roll-on-roll-off ferry services between Picton and Wellington.


  1. "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2018 (provisional)". Statistics New Zealand. 23 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018. For urban areas, "Subnational population estimates (UA, AU), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996, 2001, 2006-18 (2017 boundaries)". Statistics New Zealand. 23 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  2. "Sub-national HDI - Area Database - Global Data Lab". Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  3. "Blenheim". New Zealand History. New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  4. "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2018 (final)". Statistics New Zealand. 15 November 2018. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  5. "2013 Census QuickStats about a place". Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  6. "2013 Census QuickStats about a place: Marlborough Region -- Cultural diversity". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 26 June 2019. As people could identify as more than one ethnicity, these percentages do not add up to 100%.
  7. "2013 Census QuickStats about culture and identity – data tables". Statistics New Zealand. 15 April 2014. Archived from the original on 24 May 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2016. Note some percentages (e.g. ethnicity, language) may add to more than 100 percent as people could give multiple responses.
  8. "Regional gross domestic product: Year ended March 2018 | Stats NZ". Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  9. "Fresh Facts: New Zealand Horticulture" (PDF). Plant & Food Research. 2018. ISSN 1177-2190.
  10. Nicholson, Tessa. "Marlborough's Wine History". Wine Marlborough. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  11. "Annual Report 2019" (PDF). New Zealand Winegrowers. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  12. Rachman, Gideon (16 December 1999). "The globe in a glass". The Economist. according to Oz Clarke, a respected British critic, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is now 'arguably the best in the world.'
  13. Taber, George (2005). Judgment of Paris: California vs France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine. New York: Scribner. p. 243. ISBN 978-0-74-324751-1. [Cloudy Bay is ...] what many people consider to be the world's best Sauvignon Blanc
  14. Hooke, Huon (12 September 2015). "New Zealand gets some food for thought from Tom Stevenson". The Real Review. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  15. "New Zealand provinces 1848-77".
  16. "Councillors - Marlborough District Council". Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  17. "Find my Electorate". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  18. McRobie, Alan (1989). Electoral Atlas of New Zealand. Wellington: GP Books. pp. 87–93. ISBN 0-477-01384-8.
  19. "Contact a court — Courts of New Zealand". Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  20. "Directory of Schools - as at 3 April 2019". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  21. "Geographical Mileage Table 1957" (PDF). New Zealand Railways. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  22. "Home - Marlborough Airport". Retrieved 1 July 2019.

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