Carterton is situated about 5 miles north of the junction of the Waiohine and Ruamahanga Rivers on alluvial flats in the central part of the Wairarapa Valley. The Wellington-Masterton highway and the Wairarapa Railway pass through the borough. By road Carterton is 9 miles southwest of Masterton and 5 miles north-east of Greytown.
The main rural activities of the surrounding district are extensive sheep farming on the outer hill country, and fat-lamb production and dairying on the flats. Carterton is primarily a servicing centre for the rural community. Secondary activities include flourmilling, light engineering, fieldpipe making, joinery, clothing manufacturing, and the processing of bacon and hams.
The site of Carterton was part of an area selected by Isaac Earl Featherston and John Roy as suitable for settlement under the Small Farms Association's settlement scheme. Previously a petition had been sent to the Provincial Government of Wellington asking for a small farm settlement to be established and named Carterville. The final plan followed the adoption of a report of a select committee of the Provincial Council in February 1857, the name Carterville being dropped in favour of Carterton. It honours Charles Rooking Carter, who was responsible for carrying the project through and who in 1858 was the liquidator of the Small Farms Association. A town board was established in 1875 and Carterton became a borough in 1887. In February 1921, on petition for the severance of farm lands, the boundaries were redefined, 639 acres being taken into the Wairarapa South County.
POPULATION: 1951 census, 2,197; 1956 census, 2,590; 1961 census, 3,077.
by Brian Newton Davis, M.A., Vicar, St. Philips, Karori West, Wellington and Edward Stewart Dollimore, Research Officer, Department of Lands and Survey, Wellington.