Story: Wellington places

Page 2. Southern suburbs

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Mt Victoria, Oriental Bay and Roseneath

One of the city’s oldest suburbs is Mt Victoria, perched on the western flank of the hill for which it is named. The houses are mainly 19th-century wooden villas and cottages. For much of the 20th century the suburb was home to the poor and the transient. After the Second World War it became a centre for the Greek community and then, from the 1960s, a Samoan enclave. In the 1970s the suburb attracted new residents who renovated much of the housing, while also displacing its former occupants.

Nestled beneath Mt Victoria, Oriental Bay is sheltered from the south. It is named after the Oriental, one of the first New Zealand Company ships to bring settlers to the region. In fine weather its sandy beach attracts crowds. Above the beach, a broad sidewalk extends round the bay – the city’s promenade. The colonial houses that once lined the bay are steadily being replaced by expensive, high-rise apartment blocks.

From Roseneath, at the northern end of Mt Victoria, there are superb views over Wellington harbour. Like Mt Victoria and Oriental Bay, it contains some of the city’s most valuable real estate.

Mount Cook, Newtown and Berhampore

These settlements were laid out in the 1840s but remained largely farmland until the 1870s, when the flat land attracted new housing development. In 1878 the area received a boost when Wellington Hospital moved from Thorndon to Newtown, eventually becoming a large regional complex.

Between 1880 and 1900 Wellington’s population doubled, creating a building boom. Facilities followed. From 1896 Newtown’s Athletic Park became the home of Wellington rugby. In 1902, a library opened in Newtown and four years later a zoo was built at Newtown Park. In Melrose, above the zoo, Plunket founder Sir Frederic Truby King built his Karitane Hospital for babies.

After the Second World War, the district became home to many Māori migrating to the city from rural areas. In the 1960s and 1970s, a large number of Pacific Island families also settled. They were followed in the 1980s by gentrifiers. During the 1990s a Somali community grew, making the district among the city’s most ethnically and culturally diverse.

Brooklyn, Vogeltown and Kingston

Brooklyn, two kilometres uphill from the city centre, was originally known as Fitchett, after John Fitchett, whose dairy farm supplied town milk. In the 1880s it was subdivided and named Brooklyn, after the New York district, and the streets were named after American presidents. The suburb is well known for its ‘windmill’, a wind turbine on Polhill (299 metres), visible from many parts of the city.

Vogeltown was named after New Zealand’s 1870s premier, Julius Vogel.

Kingston, at the southern end of Brooklyn, grew as a suburb from the 1950s.

Runaway tram

The gradient of tram tracks up to the hillside suburb of Brooklyn was gradual, but trams needed to brake going downhill. In 1907, only a year after the service began, the brakes failed on a descending tram. Gathering speed, it jumped the tracks and slid down a bank. One passenger was killed.

Island Bay and Ōwhiro Bay

Island Bay, the most southerly suburb, is named for the island of Tapu te Ranga, which dominates the bay. The island was an important site in the past, but is now uninhabited. In the 1880s, farmland at Island Bay was subdivided for housing. Around the same time Italian fishermen settled there, forming a distinctive enclave.

Island Bay’s sandy beach has long been popular for recreation. Two new attractions are likely to draw more visitors, especially divers. In 2005 the frigate Wellington was sunk near the shore as a dive wreck. A marine reserve was developed off the south coast, around Tapu te Ranga Island, in 2008.

Ōwhiro Bay is a smaller settlement west of Island Bay.

How to cite this page:

Chris Maclean, 'Wellington places - Southern suburbs', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 30 May 2024)

Story by Chris Maclean, published 9 Jul 2007, updated 1 Mar 2016