Lower Hutt is situated in the lower Hutt Valley, with the greater part of the city lying east of the Hutt River. The boundaries are Taita Gorge in the north and Port Nicholson and the borough of Petone in the south. To the west and east the hills rise sharply from the valley floor. The residential suburbs are Stokes Valley, Epuni, Waterloo, Waiwhetu, Avalon, Belmont, Normandale, and Maungaraki. Taita, Naenae, and Moera are partly zoned for industry, while the main heavy-industry zone is Seaview-Gracefield (an area which has been extended by harbour reclamation). The Wellington-Wairarapa railway line passes through the city and there is a suburban line from Wellington to Upper Hutt, with 8 stations serving Lower Hutt, Ava, Woburn, Waterloo, Epuni, Naenae, Wingate, Taita, and Pomare. A branch line also runs from Petone to Melling to serve the suburbs on the western side of the valley. By road and rail Lower Hutt is 8 miles north-east of Wellington and 12 miles south-west of Upper Hutt. Petone is 1½ miles south-west, and Eastbourne 7 miles southeast. Wellington is the nearest port, although there is an oil tanker wharf at Point Howard, 3½ miles from the city. Air traffic uses Wellington Airport, at Rongotai (13 miles south-west).
Lower Hutt is an important residential, commercial, and industrial centre. The residential portions include extensive housing projects. Among the secondary industries at Seaview-Gracefield (2½ miles south-east) are a car-assembly plant, oil installations, the manufacture of industrial gases, plastics, and paint, and footwear and biscuit factories. Radios and television sets are made at Naenae (2½ miles north-east) and there is a glass factory at Taita (nearly 4 miles north-east). The large railway workshops are at Moera (about 2 miles south-east). Engineering plants, electrical factories, and building and construction works are widespread. With the major Wellington units of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research now in Lower Hutt, including the Dominion Laboratory, the Dominion Physical Laboratory, Geological Survey, Soil Bureau, and Institute of Nuclear Sciences, the city has an important part in New Zealand's research work. The borough of Petone (1½ miles south-west) also supports a variety of secondary industries. These include a freezing works, woollen manufacturing, a dry-ice factory, motor works, the manufacture of cordial, perambulator and basket making, soap and cosmetic factories, timber yards, and tobacco works. Upper Hutt is mainly residential, but there is a tyre factory, a vaccine laboratory, engineering works, and a number of small factories. Activities in the district include sheep, cattle, and poultry farming, logging and sawmilling. The Wallaceville Research Station and Government experimental poultry farm are situated in the borough.
Maori settlement in the valley is traditionally dated back to A.D. 1250, when the two sons of Whatonga, a Hawke's Bay chief, settled in the area. The Maoris called the river Heretaunga, after their old home. In 1839 the preliminary expedition of the New Zealand Company arrived in the Tory, under Colonel William Wakefield, who bought land for the new settlement from the Ngati Awa Maoris. In January 1840 the main body of settlers landed on the beach at Petone (Britannia) and started to clear the land and make their homes in the lower valley. Within a few months, however, flooding of the river drove most of the colonists to the southern end of the harbour (Thorndon and Te Aro), while a few remained behind in Petone and Lower Hutt. The first colonists found the greater part of the valley covered with forest. The timber trade was important in the first half century of the valley's growth, and many sawmills operated in this period. As land was cleared and roads were constructed, farming became the main activity, with the valley increasingly supplying the needs of the nearby capital city of Wellington. Until recently market gardens were common in Lower Hutt.
The rail connection from Wellington was established in 1874 and residential development began around the then village centre in High Street. With the growth of population came local government. In 1876 the provinces were abolished and counties set up, and within five years Lower Hutt had its own town board. It was constituted a borough in 1891 and became a city in 1941. During the second 50 years of growth the emphasis slowly changed from agriculture to housing and industry. The first major industrial concern was the Railway Workshops in 1929 (the eastern railway reached Waterloo in 1927). Freezing works, woollen mills, and motor works followed. The development of housing was greatly intensified after the establishment of the Housing Construction Department in 1936. A town-planning scheme, inaugurated in the same year, laid down the basis of well-balanced zoning.
The name “Hutt” was bestowed by Colonel Wakefield originally on the Heretaunga River. Gradually it spread to the valley and the names “Lower Hutt” and “Upper Hutt” came into use. Sir William Hutt was a prominent director and one-time chairman of the New Zealand Company. Petone's name is derived from “Pito-One” which means “End of Sands”.
|Lower Hutt City||44,474||47,813||53,044|
|Upper Hutt borough||7,449||12,226||16,861|
|Remainder of urban area||9,354||13,002||16,539|
by Susan Bailey, B.A., Research Officer, Department of Industries and Commerce, Wellington.