Masterton (Māori: Whakaoriori[2]) is a large town in the Wellington Region of New Zealand and the seat of the Masterton District (a territorial authority or local government district). 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.


Whakaoriori (Māori)
Location of Masterton District in North Island
Country New Zealand
Territorial authorityMasterton District
Town founded1854
  MayorLyn Patterson
  Territorial2,299 km2 (888 sq mi)
100.66 km2 (38.87 sq mi)
111 m (364 ft)
 (June 2018)[1]
  Density11/km2 (30/sq mi)
  Urban density220/km2 (570/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+12 (NZST)
  Summer (DST)UTC+13 (NZDT)
Area code(s)06

Masterton has an urban population of 22,200, and district population of 26,300 (June 2018).[1]

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 on the southern side

History and culture

Early history

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. The railway became for a time the main line from Wellington to the north of New Zealand and its arrival cemented the town’s position as the Wairarapa region’s main market and distribution centre.

Modern history

In essence providing support services for rural industry - living off the sheep's back - Masterton's real growth ended with that sector's retrenchment after the 1974 British entry to the trade and political grouping now the European Union. Efforts to decentralise industry to New Zealand's provinces gave Masterton a print works and some other industries but the lost economic activity was not restored.

From the 1970s, 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.[3]

In April 1965 one of the country's worst industrial accidents occurred at the General Plastics Factory on 170 Dixon Street.[4]

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.


The local Te Oreore marae and Ngā Tau e Waru meeting house are affiliated with the iwi of Ngāti Kahungunu and its hapū of Kahukuraawhitia, Kahukuranui, Ngāti Te Hina, Tahu o Kahungunu, Tamahau and Whiunga, and with the iwi of Rangitāne, and its hapū of Hinetearorangi, Ngāi Tamahau, Ngāti Hāmua, Ngāti Taimahu, Ngāti Tangatakau, Ngāti Te Noti, Ngāti Te Raetea and Ngāti Te Whātui.

Another local marae, Akura Marae, is affiliated with the Ngāti Kahungunu hapū of Ngāti Te Ahuahu and Ngāti Te Hina. and with the Rangitāne hapū of Ngāti Mātangiuru and Ngāti Te Hina.[5][6]


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.[7]

Of the population, 11,226 (48.0%) were male, and 12,123 (52.0%) female.[7] 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.[7]

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%).[7]

Masterton had an unemployment rate of 7.3% of people 15 years and over, compared to 7.1% nationally.[7] 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.[7] 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.[8] Mean earnings increase of 3.7% since 2014, compared to 3.0% for the Wellington Region and 3.1% for New Zealand.[8]


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
Average rainfall mm (inches) 44.4
Average 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
Average relative 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
Mean monthly 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[9]


Between 1877 and 1989, Masterton Borough Council governed the area. An early mayor was the storekeeper Myer Caselberg (1886–1888).[10]

The Masterton District Council (MDC) governs the Masterton District territorial authority. It is made up of an elected mayor, a deputy mayor/councillor, and nine additional councillors. They are elected under the First Past the Post system in triennial elections, with the last election being held on Saturday 12 October 2019.[11]

The current council members are:[12] Lyn Patterson (M), Graham McClymont (DM), Gary Caffell, Brent Gare, David Holmes, Bex Johnson, Frazer Mailman, Tim Nelson, Tina Nixon, Chris Petersen and Sandy Ryan. All councillors are elected 'At Large'. There are also two Iwi representatives, Ra Smith and Tirau Te Tau.

Nationally, Masterton is part of the Wairarapa general electorate and the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti Māori electorate.[13]

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.[14]


Masterton's schools were reviewed over 2003 to take into account a changing demographic of the population, with several primary schools closing and merging. Today, there are five state primary schools in the township – four state contributing primaries: Douglas Park, Fernridge, Masterton Primary and Solway; and one state full primary: Lakeview. In addition, there are five state full primary schools in the surrounding district: Mauriceville, Opaki, Tinui, Wainuiouru and Whareama, and two state integrate primaries: St Patrick's, a Catholic contributing primary, and Hadlow, an Anglican full primary.

Masterton Intermediate School, with over 500 students, is the only intermediate school in Masterton (and the Wairarapa), bridging the gap between the state contributing primary schools and the secondary schools.

Two state secondary schools serve Masterton: Wairarapa College is the largest of the two with 1050 students, serving the western side of the town, while Makoura College with 320 students serves the eastern side of town. Four state integrated schools also serve the town: Chanel College is a coeducational Catholic school with its own intermediate department; Rathkeale College and St Matthew's Collegiate are Anglican boys and girls schools respectively, with St Matthew's having an intermediate department; and Solway College is a Presbyterian girls school with intermediate. There is also a composite (primary/secondary combined) Māori immersion school in the town: Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Wairarapa.

Masterton has its own polytechnic, run by UCOL (Universal College of Learning).

The Masterton District Library, situated on Queen Street, is part of the Lower North Island SMART Libraries group, which involves sharing books and information between 22 libraries.[15]



There are several newspapers circulated in Masterton, including two daily publications (Wairarapa Times-Age, The Dominion-Post) and two free community titles (Wairarapa Midweek, Wairarapa News). The Wairarapa Times-Age is the only daily newspaper based in Masterton. Formed by a merger between the Wairarapa Age and the Wairarapa Daily Times on 1 April 1938, The Wairarapa Times-Age has an audited paid circulation of 5,427.[16] The Wairarapa Times-Age is owned by Andrew Denholm of National Media Limited. NZME Publishing Limited sold the business, which includes the Wairarapa Midweek and TA Property papers in June 2016.[17] Andrew Denholm was the previous general manager. Seamus Boyer is current editor. The Wairarapa Midweek, a weekly community paper with an audited circulation of 21,186,[18] is distributed every Wednesday along with the TA Property. The Wairarapa Times Age building at 70 Chapel Street no longer holds the presses, and the space was used by the nascent Masterton Fab lab[19] which has now relocated to UCOL.[20]

Fairfax NZ owned The Dominion Post is widely circulated in the Masterton district. The Wellington-based metropolitan daily newspaper has an office, Media House, at 123 Chapel Street in Masterton. The Dominion-Post has an audited paid circulation of 55,496.[21] Fairfax publishes Wairarapa News, a free weekly community newspaper, also with offices in Media House. Wairarapa News has an audited circulation of 23,192.[22]


Masterton is serviced by one local radio station. Wairarapa's MORE FM 89.5 or 105.9 for the coastal frequency. MORE FM broadcasts locally from 6am to 10am daily from studios in Kuripuni. The station was founded by controversial Broadcaster Paul Henry, as TODAY FM 89.3 in Carterton in 1991. Later the station was rebranded as Hitz 89FM, Wairarapa's Best Music. The MORE FM Breakfast Show has been hosted by well-known local broadcaster Brent Gare, since 2004. The Saturday sports show at 8am has been hosted by local sports-caster Chris "Coggie" Cogdale since 1992.


Masterton received its first television broadcast in 1963, with the commissioning the Otahoua repeater east of the town.[23] Digital terrestrial television (Freeview HD) was introduced to the Masterton area in July 2011, in preparedness for the area's digital switchover in September 2013. The service broadcasts from the Popoiti transmitter, south of the township.[24]



Masterton's water is piped from the Waingawa through a Masterton District Council treatment plant on the river about 10 kilometres west of the town. The water is clarified and filtered then chlorinated and fluoridated. Lime is added to neutralise the pH to protect the pipes. There is a fluoride-free drinking water tap in Manuka Reserve in Manuka Street.[25]

Typhoid epidemics broke out each year in Masterton[26] and in 1896 Parliament approved a Borough Council loan to build a drainage and water supply system. Work on the water supply did not begin until 1899 delayed by disagreements over the appropriate sources for water.[27] It was finished at the end of 1900 when at the formal opening ceremony there was enough pressure to send a jet right over the Post Office tower to the accompaniment of the Masterton Municipal Brass Band. The mayor, Mr Pownall, said he was now ready to pour cold water on the scheme's opponents.[28] A covered reservoir and treatment plant at Fernridge was supplied by an intake from springs beside the Waingawa four miles further up river. The main was duplicated in 1915. It was replaced by the current system completed in 1983.

The sewage system was completed in 1901. It drained through settlement ponds and filter beds to the Ruamahanga south of the town.[29][30] The sewage farm's system included a newfangled "septic tank" which was subject to failures.[31]


The Wairarapa Electric Power Board was established in Carterton in 1920[note 1] to supply the Wairarapa with electricity from the Kourarau hydro power station at Gladstone, southeast of both towns. Masterton was connected to Mangahao in 1925 on the completion of the transmission line from Bunnythorpe to Masterton.[32] The Wairarapa Electric Power Board, moved to headquarters in Masterton in the 1950s, later named Wairarapa Electricity, was dissolved following the 1998 electricity sector reforms. The retail business was sold to Genesis Energy and the distribution lines business sold to Powerco. Today Powerco continues to operate the local distribution network in the town and surrounding district with electricity fed from Transpower's national grid at its Masterton substation in Waingawa.[33]

Masterton Gas Company was established by the Borough Council in 1886[34] on a site at the end of Bentley Street just south of the railway station. The large quantities of coal were brought in by rail. By 1945 it had become clear consumers preferred electricity[35] and the gasworks closed in the 1950s.

There is no natural gas network in Masterton, making it the largest North Island urban area without one. Proposals to connect Masterton to the North Island natural gas network via a branch off the Palmerston North to Hastings high-pressure pipeline (commissioned 1983) have not eventuated.


The Masterton magneto telephone exchange opened on 31 January 1897, with 53 subscribers. On 31 May 1919, Masterton became the first town in New Zealand to have a fully automatic (Western Electric 7A Rotary) telephone exchange.

Masterton and nearby Carterton were the first towns in New Zealand to introduce the emergency number 111, in September 1958.[36]

Before the 1991 to 1993 changes, the area code for Masterton was 059. Today the area code is 06, and numbers generally begin with 370, 372 (rural areas), 377, 378 and 946. Numbers beginning 946 are businesses.


On 3 December 2015 the UFB rollout to the town was completed.[37]


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

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.[38] According to the latest transportation plan from the Greater Wellington Regional Council,[39] 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.[40]


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.[41] 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.

Queen Elizabeth Park

Queen Elizabeth Park covers more than 20 hectares (50 acres) near the heart of Masterton on land set aside for the purpose in 1854. Its most notable aspects are the Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) trees planted in 1875, its other mature trees, and sheltered oval cricket ground. Queen Elizabeth came to Masterton Park in 1954 to be noisily welcomed by the mayor and the citizens and every schoolchild of the Wairarapa. After that she rested at the Empire hotel, waved to the crowd from the balcony and graciously gave her own name for the park.


In rugby union, Heartland Championship team Wairarapa Bush is based in Masterton, playing their home games at Memorial Park.

In association football, Central Premier League side Wairarapa United play some of their home games at Masterton; also playing in Carterton.

Sister cities

Masterton has sister-city relationships with:


Masterton is the antipode of Segovia, Spain.

See also


  1. With nine members, two from Masterton Borough and one each from Carterton Borough, Greytown Borough, Featherston Borough, Martinborough Town District and portion of Masterton County, a portion of Wairarapa South County, and a portion of Featherston County. Wairarapa Age, 10 April 1920, page 4


  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. "List of Place Names". Māori Language Commission/Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  3. DNZB "Wairarapa places" - Masterton by Ben Schrader Retrieved 12 January 2014
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 January 2015. Retrieved 31 July 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. "Te Kāhui Māngai directory". Te Puni Kōkiri.
  6. "Māori Maps". Te Potiki National Trust.
  7. 2013 Census QuickStats about a place  : Masterton District
  8. "Masterton". Ecoprofile Infometrics Retrieved 6 August 2016
  9. "Climate Data". NIWA. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
  10. Christensen, Margaret. "Myer Caselberg". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
  11. "Elections". Masterton District Council. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  12. "Councillors". Masterton District Council. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  13. "Find my electorate". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  14. "Current applications | Local Government Commission". 8 July 2016. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  16. "Newspaper Audit Process". Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  17. "NZME to Sell Wairarapa Times-Age Locally | Scoop News". 9 June 2016. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  18. "Newspaper Audit Process". Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  19. Norman, Emily (17 July 2015). "Fab Lab plans to leapfrog to latest tech". NZME. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  20. "Fab Lab finds new home at UCOL". Fuseworks Media. 17 July 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  21. "Newspaper Audit Process". Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  22. "Newspaper Audit Process". Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  23. "Parliamentary Debates (Hansard)". 351. New Zealand Parliament. 28 June 1967: 1394. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  24. Crombie, Nathan (16 September 2010). "Town may get HD television". Wairarapa Times-Age. Masterton: APN News & Media. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011.
  25. Masterton District Council accessed 30 November 2018
  26. Wairarapa Daily Times 22 September 1896 Page 2
  27. Evening Post 20 October 1899, Page 6
  28. Wairarapa Daily Times 21 December 1900, Page 2
  29. Wairarapa Daily Times, 22 June 1901, Page 2
  30. Wairarapa Daily Times, 13 August 1903, Page 2
  31. Wairarapa Daily Times, 4 August 1904, Page 5
  32. Engineering Heritage New Zealand accessed
  33. "Our Networks". Powerco. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  34. Wairarapa Daily Times 28 December 1886, Page 2
  35. Evening Post 12 April 1945, Page 9
  36. "Fiftieth anniversary of 111 emergency service" (Press release). Beehive. 8 May 2008. Retrieved 25 June 2009.
  37. "Masterton ultra-fast network complete". NZME. 13 December 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  38. Farmer, Don (23 May 2008). "Rimutaka road tunnels back on the agenda". Wairarapa Times-Age. Masterton: APN News & Media. Retrieved 4 February 2012. In their report to Transit the consultants contend tunnels would be an excellent service linking Featherston with Upper Hutt but costs would rule them out as a viable, economic option.
  39. "Greater Wellington Regional Council Wairarapa Corridor Plan, December 2003" (PDF). Retrieved 5 September 2005.
  40. "New Masterton rail freight hub opens in 2016". DieselTalk. 3 December 2015. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  41. "Air NZ announces Masterton-Auckland route". Fairfax New Zealand. 29 September 2008. Retrieved 21 September 2009.

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