Story: Capital city

Page 1. New Zealand’s capital

All images & media in this story

Every independent nation has a capital city. The capital city is the site of a country’s principal institutions of government. As the seat of government, it also serves as a focus for the country’s politics and its evolving sense of national identity and purpose.


New Zealand’s capital city is Wellington, situated at the southern tip of the North Island, near the centre of the country. Wellington is the site of the country’s national Parliament, of the executive (offices of the cabinet and the prime minister) and of the official residences of the prime minister and the sovereign’s representative, the governor-general. It is also the location of the country’s two highest judicial bodies, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

Images of New Zealand

New Zealand is often represented visually by its capital, with images of the Beehive – the executive wing of Parliament, housing the offices of the prime minister and other senior cabinet members – used to illustrate or accompany news or information about the country and its politics.

Changes of national capitals

Other countries have changed the site of their capital from time to time – for instance, Washington, DC is not the United States of America’s first capital city (Philadelphia has that honour). Brazil moved its capital from Rio de Janeiro to the new city of Brasilia in 1960 – and New Zealand, likewise, has not always had ‘windy Wellington’ as its capital. Earlier capitals were at Russell in the Bay of Islands and Auckland.

How to cite this page:

Stephen Levine, 'Capital city - New Zealand’s capital', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 April 2024)

Story by Stephen Levine, published 20 Jun 2012, updated 1 Aug 2016